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Gerald Hunter Robinson 








Assembled bv David Ma gee 


3 1197 22902 6049 





*'■ if ■. 






TOi'tf) J^i0t0rical Untrotjuction, fHapg, anli ^Ulustrations. 






^ • 






Trieste, March 1875. 

My dear Sir, 

Be pleased to accept this very inadequate return 
for the varied information with which you have favoured me, 
and for all your hospitality and kindness to me at Edinburgh 
and elsewdiere. 

You are so well known as a traveller in Iceland, and as 
a warm and generous friend to the Icelander, that you will 
not be held responsible for my over freedom of speech, nor for 
any unpopular opinions expressed in the pages honoured by 
bearing your name. 

Pray believe me, 

Yours very sincerely, 


Robert Mackay SxMith, Esq., 
etc., etc., etc., 

*' SiGNOn, non sotto Tombra in piaggia molle 
Tra fonti e fior, tra Ninfe e tra Sirene ; 
Ma in cima al I'erto e faticoso colle, 

Delia virtu riposto e il nostro bene : 
Chi non gela, e non suda, e non s'estolle 
Dalle vie del piacer, \k non perviene. " 

— Tasso, xvii. 61. 

** Not among nymphs and sirens, founts and flowers, 
Not in voluptuous herbage in the shade ; 
But on the toilsome steep where valour towers 
Alone, Prince, our supreme good is laid ; 
Who from the paths of pleasure will not raise 

His thoughts; nor freeze nor sweat, arrives not there." 

— James. 

" In somma, ho avuto sempre mai d'avanti agli occhi quelle sante leggi 

della Storia, di non osar dire il falso, ne temer di dire il vero ; e mi lusingo 

di non avervi contravenuto. " 

— Abbai\e Clavigero. 


According to the fashion of the day, this volume should have 
been published two years ago, shortly after my return from Ice- 
land. The truth is that before the second third had been written, 
I found a large fallow of pre-historic study, the Castellieri of 
Istria, and I could not help putting hand to the work at " Ice- 
land's " expense. But this much of delay is, methinks, a disad- 
vantage rather in popular prejudice than in point of fact. The 
loss of freshness brings with it not a little gain. Whilst all the 
scenes and events of a journey, during and immediately after 
its progress, appear like an unartistic sketch, confused and with- 
out comparative distance ; time gives perspective, and relation 
of details, and distinction of light and shade. Moreover, in 
treating of Iceland there is present danger of misleading the 
reader, unless due reflection correct hasty work. The subject is, 
to some extent, like Greece and Palestine, of the sensational 
type : we have all read in childhood about those " Wonders of 
the World," Hekla and the Geysir, and, as must happen under 
the circumstances, we have all drawn for ourselves our own Ice- 
land — a distorted and exaggerated mental picture of what has 
not met, and will not meet, the eye of sense. Moreover, the 
travellers of the early century saw scenes of thrilling horror, of 
majestic grandeur, and of heavenly beauty, where our more 


critical, perhaps more cultivated, taste finds very humble features. 
They had " Iceland on the brain," and they were wise in their 
generation: honours and popularity await the man who ever 
praises, the thorough partisan who never blames. But not the 
less our revulsion of feeling requires careful coercion : it always 
risks under-rating what we have found so much over-valued, 
of tinging neutral-hued sobriety with an angry flush of dis- 

I went to Iceland feeling by instinct that many travellers 
had prodigiously exaggerated their descriptions, possibly because 
they had seldom left home. " The most difficult and expensive 
country in the world" would certainly prove cheap and easy 
after the Andes and the Hauran. What could be made of 
"giddy rapid rivers" at most three feet deep, and if deeper 
provided with ferries? Yet the "scare" had succeeded in 
making a deep impression: one tourist came to Iceland pre- 
pared to cross the streams " in buff," and firmly determined on 
no account to climb a scaur. " The ruts are only one danger 
of Icelandic travelling, the danger is crossing the streams," says 
a modern author — how his descriptions were derided by a 
couple of English officers who had ridden about the Himalayas ! 
What could I think of the "stupendous precipice of Almannagja," 
of the " frightful chasm," of the " dreadful abyss, causing the 
most disagreeable emotions," when also told that men ride up 
and down the side ? Yet another says, " rush for your life" from 
the unfortunate Strokkr; whilst we are actually threatened 
with perils of polar bears — half-starved wretches floated ashore 
upon ice-floes to be slaughtered by the peasants with toy scythes 
before they can stretch their cramped and numbed limbs. The 
" horrific deep chasms " of the Eeykjavik-HafnafjorS road, and 
the popular sketches, affected me with extreme incredulity. A 
friend described to me life in Iceland as living in a corner, the 


very incarnation of the passive mood ; and travelling there as 
full of stolid, stupid risks, that invite you to come and to repent 
coming, not like the swiftly pursuing or treacherously lurking 
perils of tropical climes, but invested with a horror of their own 
— such was not my experience. 

Shortly after returning to England, I published, in the columns 
of the Morning Standard (October to November 1872), two letters 
for the benefit of intending tourists and explorers. Written in 
the most sober and realistic style, and translated into many of 
the languages of Europe, they gained for me scant credit at 
home. " Old Identity " again kicked against the goad of " New 
Iniquity," and what could I expect ? Mackenzie and Henderson, 
who would " feast wondering eyes " upon everything and every- 
body, had set the example of treating Iceland as an exceptional 
theme. They found followers : even the hard-headed Scot 
gallops between Eeykjavik and Thingvellir along the edge of a 
" dreadful precipice," where I saw only the humblest ravine ; and 
travellers to the age-weary, worn-out Geysir rise at midnight in 
their excitement to sing those " grand old psalm-tunes, such as 
York and the Old Hundredth." Need it be said that Mr Cook's 
pilgrim-tourists have done exactly the same thing in the Holy 
Land ? 

My matter-of-fact notions were set down as the effects of 
" Peter Porcupine," over-" combativeness," and the undue " spirit 
of opposition " that characterises an Objector-General, with the 
" morbid object of gaining popularity by stating something new" 
— a hasty judgment, which justifies me in writing these volumes, 
and in supporting my previously expressed views. I can appeal 
for confirmation to the dozen intelligent English tourists who 
were in Iceland at the same time as myself: all united with 
me in deriding their previous conceptions, and in forming the 
estimate here offered to the public. 


My plan throughout this volume has been as follows : The 
reader, not the critic, is assumed to know as little about the 
island as its author did before visiting it ; and the first impres- 
sions are carefully recorded, not only as a mise en sc^ne, but for 
conciseness' sake, so that only differences, not resemblances, may 
require subsequent notice. Thus the capital and its environs are 
painted at some length, whilst most authors simply land at the 
little port, and set out at once for the interior. The cruise to 
the north coast, and the "Cockney trip" to Hekla and the Geysir 
are related with less circumstance, but I have added itineraries, 
as such details have not yet appeared in English. The journey 
through the eastern country claims considerable space. Critics 
tell us that African travellers have so much trouble to reach the 
Unexplored Eegions, that they are apt to report all they see at 
wearying length, and to empty the contents of their journals 
upon the public. But every mile of new, or even comparatively 
new, ground deserves careful topographical notices : let the 
general reader "skip" such photos if he likes, but let them be 
written at least for the purpose of future comparison. Again, 
the Icelanders may complain, like the Swiss, that, whilst their 
country has become a touring-field to Europe, scant attention 
is paid to themselves. I have endeavoured to remedy this 
grievance by ethnological descriptions ; and though it has been 
my desire to speak of things, and states of things, not of persons, 
it has been impossible at times to avoid personalities. And, 
whilst a wanderer knowing only enough of the language to ex- 
press his humble wants, whose travels have been limited to a 
single fine season, has little right ex cathedra to pronounce, even 
in this scanty community, upon religion and politics, upon com- 
merce and civilisation; he is fully justified in quoting as his 
own the judgments formed by consulting experts and authorities, 
upon whom his experience, and that " sixth sense " developed 


by the life -long habit of observation, have taught him to 

There is still much to be done in Iceland, and I flatter myself 
that the fifteenth chapter, which shows my only attempt at 
actual exploration, will supply adventurous men with useful 
hints. The geography, especially of that huge white blot, the 
south-eastern part, is unknown ; and a tyro can be usefully em- 
ployed there in collecting specimens of botany. The meteoro- 
logy, again, is highly interesting — does the cold in the " Insula 
quae glacialis dicitur" increase, as some have supposed, the 
effect of the " precession of the equinoxes, the revolution of the 
apsides, variations in the excentricity of the earth's orbit," etc. ? 
Or has it increased at all since Saga times ? Evidently it would 
be most interesting to compare the Icelandic glacier-formations 
with those of Switzerland ; and to determine if the rules laid 
down by the " De Saussure of Great Britain," the late Professor 
David Forbes, by Professor Tyndall, and by Mr Whymper, the 
conqueror of the mighty Matterhorn, are here applicable. As 
anthropologists, we ask why a people once so famed for arms, if 
not for arts, has almost disappeared from the world's history — is 
the change caused by politics or religion; is it the logical sequence 
of monarchy or "media," of icy winters, of earthquakes and vol- 
canoes, of pestilence and famine ? We are curious to learn why 
a noble poetry should have ceased to sing. And as we have 
dwelt upon the past, so we would speculate upon the future of 
the Scandinavian race, which is supposed to be tending to 
reunion in its old homes, and which, as it enlarges its education, 
will, like the Slav, take high rank in the European family. 

The main object of the book, however, has been to advocate 
the development of the island. Sensible Icelanders freely con- 
fess that the life-struggle at home is hard, very hard, and that 
the " Alma Mater " is a " Dura Mater," but they have not 


suggested any remedy for the evil. I hold three measures to be 
absolutely necessary; the first is the working of the sulphur 
deposits — not to mention the silica — now in English hands ; the 
second, a systematic reform of the primitive means and appli- 
ances with which the islanders labour in their gold mines, the 
fisheries ; and, thirdly, the extension of the emigrating movement, 
now become a prime need when the population is denser than 
at any period of its thousand-year history. Concerning that 
" make-shift," the pony traffic, and the ill-judged export of sheep 
and black cattle, ample details will also be found. 

ISTo care has been omitted in securing for these pages as much 
correctness as the reader can expect. Mr Robert Mackay 
Smith, of Edinburgh, whose name I have placed, with permission, 
at the beginning of this volume, obliged me with the details of 
his own travels. Dr Eichard S, Charnock, whose extensive read- 
ing and access to libraries fit him well for the task, assisted me 
in the Introductory Section, which treats of Thule. Mr Gwyn 
Jeffreys kindly examined my little collection of shells ; Mr 
Alfred Newton was good enough to suggest hints concerning a 
possible "last of the Gare-fowl;" and Mr Watts, of Vatna-, or 
rather Klofa-, Jokull fame, gave me a list of his stages. My 
fellow-traveller, Mr Alfred G. Lock of Eoselands, kept me 
thoroughly well posted, at gTeat trouble to himself, in ephemeral 
literature concerning Iceland. When preparing my manuscript 
for the press, I found that the notes showed various lacunae and 
want of details resulting from lack of time : Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin 
of the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, whose name is suffi- 
cient recommendation, consented to become my colldborateur in 
working up the Introduction ; and Mr A. H. Gunlogsen has 
revised the sheets in my absence from home. Of the late Dr 
Cowie I shall speak in another place. Mr Vincent courteously 
placed his paper on " Sulphur in Iceland," at my disposal ; and 


Mr P. le Neve Foster, Secretary of the Society of Arts, allowed 
me to borrow from it or to reprint it. Mr William P. Nimmo 
has brought out the book in the most handsome and liberal 
form. I thank these gentlemen from my heart, and, at the 
samie time, I warn my readers that all sins of commission and 
omission occurring in these pages, must be charged upon the 
author, and the author alone. 

Allow me to conclude this necessary preliminary ramble with 
the lines of good " old Dan GefPiy : " 

' * For every word men may not chide or pleine, 
For in this world certain ne wight there is 
That he ne doth or sayth sometime amis." 




Of Thule. 


Thule, Poetical and Khetorical, 


Strabo, Mela, Pliny, Ptolemy, 


Thule, part of Great Britain, 


Thule = Scandia, .... 


Thule = Iceland, .... 


Thule (Etymology of). 


Physical Geography of Iceland. 

Genesis and Geology, 

tj \^ jii\j\jrix^i.i: J3. ± v/£ JLvxiUxvxix/. 








Summary, . 



Historical Notes, . 



Political Geography of Iceland. 

General Considerations, 

• • • . 





Judicial Procedure, . 

, . . . 


VOL. I. 









General Considerations, 


Personal Appearance, 


Character, . 




The Family, . 




Education, . 
Professions, . 

Education and Professions. 



Zoological Notes, etc. 

Animals Wild and Tame, . . . . 


Notes on the Flora, .... 


Agriculture and Cattle-Breeding, 


Fisheries and Fishing, 


Industry, ..... 


Emigration, . . . ... 



Taxation, etc. 

Taxation, ..... 


Coins, ..... 


"Weights and Measures, 


Communication and Commerce, 


Visit to the Store, .... 


Prices and Imports, .... 



Catalogue, etc. 

Catalogue-Ilaisonn6 of Modern Travels in Iceland, 
Preparations for Travel, 






The Steam-Ship " Queen " — The Orkneys and Maes Howe 

— The Shetlands and the Fseroe Islands, 
Note on Stone Implements, .... 




The Landfall — Fishing Fleet — To Reykjavik, 



Reykjavik — The Suburbs — The Lodging-House — The Club 

and the Way we spend the Day, . . . 330-347 


Sunday at Reykjavik — Drinking in Iceland, 



Visits — Convivialities — The Catholic View of the " Re- 
formation" — Surtar-brand — The Home-Rule Party, . 



VOL. I. 

Reykjavik, Capital of Iceland, 

General Map of Iceland, 

The Dwarfie Stone, Hoy, Orkney, . 

St Magnus' Cathedral and Earl's Palace, Kirkwall, 

Stone Implements found in Shetland, 

Cottage in Reykjavik, 

The Anglo-Icelandic Host, . 

The Lich-House, Cemetery, Reykjavik, 

Iceland Woman — Sunday Wear, 

Iceland Woman — Monday Wear, 

The Head" Constable, 


Introduction, 1 

First Cruis e and Exair>simv .-A. V/ Keykjav«^<;j^i^ \ -^ 

-'itde-v ai Oisens 

o." Thwn-. 

" Cornpiow 

4 MotlurCkufch' and'Place cf Council'. 

* ChapeL and cL? 
+ Moifur ■CAuT'ch- 

* C?iap«l, 

o Pla£f^ ofCaanciL. 

. Faffn I'bcer'J 

•'• WarmSjtr^rujs. ffvir; laiig, OlhtUa^ 

-TraveUinq roaS. 

aug SS Oil's : 

la-p of Iceland. 

15 ■ r 

N^ 1,2,3, Eruptions with .....o. /uissious c 

80 000. 

8 9 10 Miles 


M?Jarl«jie Jc Erslaiie : L:Gi" I.clnJ 






But is Iceland " Ultima Thule ? " 

The author hopes to make it evident that " Thule " was used 
according to date in five several senses — a sufficient reason for 
the confusion which has so long invested the subject. It has 
been well remarked that no place is more often mentioned by 
the ancients than the " island hid from us by snow and winter;" 
and yet, that no position is more controverted.^ There has been 
a " King of Thule/' and now there is a " Princess of Thule," — but 
where and what is " Thule ? " 

It will take some time to clear up the darkness which has 
been heaped by a host of writers upon " Thule," and we will 
begin by distributing the debated word. 

Firstly, It was attributed poetically, rhetorically, and per 
synecdochen, to the northern " period of cosmographie," and to 
its people, real or supposed. 

Secondly, It was applied to Iceland, and to Iceland only, from 
the earliest ages of its exploration. 

^ " Mirum de Tyle, quae inter occidentales ultima fertur insulas, quod apud 
orientales tarn nomine quam natura sit famosissima ; cum occidentalibus sit 
prorsus incognita," says Giraldus Cambrensis, chap, xvii,, p. 98, ed. T. F. 
Dimock, M.A., Lend. 1867. 

VOL. I. A 

First Gmtse ati/l Exciwsiony 
Stcmd £xciirswn 

- Town 

• Comp{oir' 

& ('ft4if}tl and d° 

• Moihtr -Church 

• Farm. ' bttr; 

WarmSpmnas. Hvv. laii^, ClkfUa 
—TravfiUtna road' 


After Oluf Nicolai Olsens 
afid Bjorn Cninnlaugssoii's ; 

"UppdraltT Islands. (Map of Iceland. 
-^ 1849. -*- 

SCALF. 1 J'JSO 000. 

lb ^unne, tns yeari, iob/, lol>,j. ,871; - j2 . N 4, Hruyiioii about i^nnsimiis io/'t N. b, hrupi'.or. ca March lo/v.. 
The "brown shading mark the Ashes thrown S.E. to East. ' ^ 

■William P Nimmo, LoTidon A ESinburgh 


Thirdly, In the centuries when imperial Eome extended her 
sceptre to the north of " the Britains ; " it was given to the out- 
lying parts, Ireland, Scotland, the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and 
features known only to fabulous geography. 

Fourthly, The later Eonian writers prolonged it to the " Scania 
Island," modern Norway, Sweden, and Lapland. This Thule 
should be called " Procopiana." 

Fifthly, Between the establishment ' of Christianity in Eng- 
land, and the official or modern rediscovery, the term Thule was 
once more, as of old, limited to Iceland. 



The following are popular instances of Thule used in its first 
sense, the remotest part of the septentrional world, when it was 
a " fabulosa non minus quam famosa insula." Virgil has only 
one allusion to it (Georg., i. 30, 31) : 

*' Tibi serviat ultima Thule, 
Teque sibi generum Tethys emat omnibus undis ;" 

but his epithet has been consecrated by a bevy of succeeding 

Servius, commenting upon Virgil, explains : 

"Thyle insula est oceani inter septentrionalem et occidentalem plagam, ultra 
Britanniam, Hiberniam, Orcadas;" 

which is vague enough. He is afterwards more precise : 

' * At this island, when the sun is in Cancer, the days are said to be continuous 
without nights. Various marvels are related of it, both by Greek and later 
writers ; by Ctesias and Diogenes among the former, and by Samnonicus among 
the latter." 

The work of Ctesias here referred to is little known : Thule 
would hardly enter into Persica and Indica (b.c. 400). Of 
Diogenes presently. Samnonicus Sorenus was a writer put to 
death by command of Caracalla (Notes and Queries, t. ii., v. 119, 
p. 301). 

L. Annseus Seneca (ob. a.d. 65) first re-echoes Virgil in the 


celebrated " prophetic verses/' wliose sense has been extended 
to tlie New World : 

** Venient annis secula seris, 
Quibus Oceanus vincula rerum 
Laxet, et ingens pateat telliis, 
Tethysque novos detegat orbes, 
Nee sit terris ultima Thule." 

— Medea, 375, et seq. 

Ammianus Marcellinus (ob. circ. a.d. 390) uses (History, 
lib. xviii., 6, 31) the adage, " Etiamsi apud Thnlen moraretur 

Claudius Claudianus (flor. a.d. 395-408) sings : 

*' Et nostro procul axe remotam 
Insolito belli tremeficit murmure Thulen ! " 

-De Bell Getic, 203, et seq. 

And — 

* ' Te vel Hyperboreo damnatam sidere Thulen, 
Te vel ad incensas Libyse comitatur arenas." 

— In Bufin., ii. 240. 

Finally, we find in Aurelius Prudentius (nat. a.d. 348) : 

" Ultima littora Thules 
Transadigit. " 

II. , 


Entering upon the second phase of the subject, it is advisable 
to consider what has been written concerning Thule, by the four 
patriarchs of classical geography. With Strabo Thule is Iceland; 
in Mela it is indefinite ; and to Pliny and Ptolemy it is part of 
Britain, with an arriere joens^e of Iceland : of Pytheas and Era- 
tosthenes we must also say a few words. 


Strabo (nat. B.C. 54 ; Introduction, vol. i., p. 99, Hamilton and 
Falconer's translation, Bohn, 1854) tells us, § 2 : 

' ' Thence {i. e. , from the Dneiper) to the parallel of Thule, which Pytheas says 


is six days' sail north from Britain and near the Frozen Sea, other 11,500 stadia " 
[a measure which we will assume with Leake to be 700 = 1"]. 

Again, § 3 : 

" But that the Dneiper is under the same parallel as Thule, what man in his 
senses could ever agree to this ? Pylheas, who has given us the history of Thule, 
is known to be a man upon whom no reliance can be placed ; and other writers 
who have seen Britain and lerne ^ (Ireland ?), although they tell us of many small 
islands round Britain, make no mention whatever of Thule." 

In §4: 

"Now from Marseille to the centre of Britain is not more than 5000 stadia ; and 
if from the centre of Britain we advance north not more than 4000 stadia, we 
arrive at a temperature in which it is scarcely possible to exist. Such indeed is 
thjit of lerne. Consequently the far region in which Eratosthenes places Thule 
must be totally uninhabitable. By what guess-work he arrived at the con- 
clusion that between the latitude of Thule and the Dnieper there was a diflference 
of 11,500 stadia, I am unable to divine." 

In book ii., chap. 4, §§ 1, 2, he thus disposes of Pytheas (" by 
whom many have been deceived ") : 

"It is this last writer who states that he travelled all over Britain on foot, 
and that the island is above 40,000 stadia in circumference.^ It is likewise he 
who describes Thule and other neighbouring places, where, according to him, 
neither earth, water, nor air exist separately, but a sort of concretion of all these, 
resembling marine sponge, in which the earth, the sea, and all things were 
suspended, this forming, as it were, a link to unite the whole together. It can 
neither be travelled over nor sailed through. As for the substance, he affirms 
that he has beheld it with his own eyes ; the rest he reports on the authority of 
others. So much for the statements of Pytheas, who tells us besides, that after 
he had returned thence, he traversed the whole coasts of Europe from Gades to the 
Don. Polybius asks, * How is it possible that a private individual, and one too 
in narrow circumstances, could ever have performed such vast expeditions by sea 
and land ? ^ And how could Eratosthenes, who hesitates whether he may rely on 
his statements in general, place such entire confidence in what the writer relates 

^ The lernis of Onomacritus (who is supposed to have written about B.C. 535, 
in the days of Pisistratus). Its authenticity is defended by Ruhnkenius (Epist. 
Crit. 2), and by Archbishop Usher (Ecclesiar. Antiq., chap. 16), while Camden 
(Britan.) has claimed the island to be England. Adrian Junius, a Dutch poet 
of the sixteenth century, quoted by Moore (History, chap. 1), thus alluded to 
Ireland having been known to the Argonauts : 

" Ilia ego sum Graiis olim glacialis lerne 
Dicta, et Jasoni puppis bene cognita navis." 
We shall afterwards find Sibbald identifying lerne with Strathearn. 

^ Consult the paper " On the Stade as a Linear Measure " by W. Martin Leake, 
Esq., Journal of the E.G.S., vol. ix. of 1839, pp. 1-25. The word Stadium 
or Stade does not appear in the index of the first twenty volumes ; and this is 
only one instance of the carelessness with which an essential addition to the 
Journal has been drawn up. 
3 We may ask in our turn what prevented him travelling with traders ? 


concerning Britain, Gades, and Iberia ? ' Says he, * It would have been better 
had Eratosthenes trusted to the Messenian (Euhemerus or Evemerus) rather 
than to this writer. The former merely pretends to have sailed into one 
[unknoAvn] country, viz., Panchaea, but the latter that he has visited the whole 
of the north of Europe, as far as the ends of the earth ; which statement, even 
had it been made by Mercury, we should not have believed. Nevertheless 
Eratosthenes, who terms Euhemerus a Bergsean, gives credit to Pytheas, although 
even Dicserchus would not believe him.' " 

In book ii., chap. 5, § 8, we have a further notice of Thule : 

" It is true that Pytheas Massiliensis affirms that the farthest country north of 
the British Islands is Thule ; for which place, he says, the summer tropic and 
the Arctic circle is all one. But he records no other particulars concerning it ; 
[he does not say] whether Thule is an island, or whether it continues habitable 
up to the point where the summer tropic becomes one with the Arctic circle. 
For myself, I fancy that the northern boundaries of the habitable earth are greatly 
south of this. Modern writers tell us of nothing beyond lerne which lies just 
north of Britain, where the people live miserably and like savages, on account of 
the severity of the cold. It is here, in my opinion, the bounds of the habitable 
earth ought to be fixed." 

Finally, in book iv., chap. 5, § 5, we have the most important 
notice of all : 

"The description of Thule is still more uncertain on account of its secluded 
situation ; for they consider it the northernmost of all lands, of which the names 
are known. The falsity of what Pytheas has related concerning this and neigh- 
bouring places, is proved by what he has asserted of well-known countries. For 
if, as we have shown, his descriptions of these is in the main incorrect, what he 
says of far distant countries is still more likely to be false. Nevertheless, as far as 
astronomy and mathematics are concerned,^ he api^^cii'S to have reasoned correctly 
that people bordering on the frozen zone would he destitute of cultivated fruits and 
almost deprived of the domestic animals ; that their food would consist of millet, 
herbs, fruits, and roots ; and that where there was corn and honey they would 
make drink of these. That having no bright sun they would thresh their corn 
and store it in vast granaries, threshing-floors being useless on account of the rain 
and want of sun. " 

The whole question evidently hinges upon the credibility of 
Pytheas Massiliensis, who travelled about the time of Alexander 
the Great. It has been ably argued, pro and con, by a host of 
writers, and in our day by the late Sir G. C. Lewis (Astronomy 
of the Ancients, p. 467, et seq.), and by Sir John Lubbock (Pre- 
historic Times, p. 59). But the dispute has not been settled. I 
would remark that the old traveller's account is consistent enough. 

1 Hipparchus ad Arat. (i. 5 ; confer Plut., iii. 17), also attests the scientific 
worth of Pytheas, and mentions how he explained the tides by lunar phases. 


He appears to place Tliule under N. lat. 66° (assuming, as Strabo 
does, the tropic at 24°), a parallel which would pass through the 
north of Iceland. He is quite right about the absence of fruits. 
His spongy matter may have been ice-brash, Medusae, the Ger- 
man meer-lungen, or even pumice-stone, which modern travellers 
have found floating in such quantities upon the sea, within reach 
of volcanoes, that their movements were arrested. We read that 
about a month before the eruption of a.d. 1783, a submarine 
vent burst forth at a distance of nearly seventy miles in a south- 
westerly direction off Cape Eeykjanes, and ejected such immense 
quantities of pumice that the surface of the ocean was covered with 
it to the distance of 150 miles, and the spring ships were impeded 
in their course. Also when Herodotus, a Greek — whose world 
embraced the Eridanus or Amber Eiver, the Tin Isles, the Arimas- 
pians and the Hyperboreans — could confound snow with feuthers, 
Pytheas, a Marseillais, might be allowed some latitude in describ- 
ing glaciers. Poverty has not prevented the most audacious jour- 
neys ; and discovery has been mainly the work of individuals. 
Geminus (Isagoge, etc., cap. 5) opines that Pytheas was taken to 
Iceland as^ainst his will. The barbarians showed him where the 
sun set on the shortest day, and rose again after a short interval. 
Then the sea began to thicken "pulmonis marini (irvev^ovu OaXar- 
t/o)) simile." He afterwards heard that where the sun does not 
set, is the uttermost part of the world, and cannot be travelled 
over. Greek outrecuidance evidently hated to be taught by a kind 
of Gaul like Pytheas. Strabo, with his captious, bilious, and acrid 
criticism, is wrong, and Pytheas is right, in a highly' important 
part of the question, the inhabitability of the island. In fact, 
sundry modern writers have declared that, as far as we have the 
means of judging, Strabo's predecessors, Pytheas and Eratos- 
thenes, were more correctly informed than he was concerning 
the geography of the western parts of Europe.^ The learned 

^ See Kerum Script. Hiberniae (Prolog., i., xii.), quoted at the end of tliis section. 
Of Pytheas we know little, except that he was a Phocsean or Massilian Greek, 
who is supposed to have made two voyages between B.C. 350 and B.C. 300. 
In the first, he sailed round Albion and reached Thule. In the second, he set 
out from Gadira (Cadiz) to the Tanais, which is popularly supposed to have 
been the Elbe. Both his works, "On the Ocean," and the "Periplus," are 
lost. Even Strabo, who seems to have had "that charlatan Pytheas on the 
brain," does not deny his knowledge of astronomy, mathematics, and navigation. 


Isaac Casaubon (Commentaries upon Strabo) thus decides the 
question clean against his author : " Thule — non esse aliam quse 
Islandia hodie dicitur, facile doctis viris assentior." He adds 
that Eratosthenes held Pytheas to be an oracle, but when Poly bins 
and others found his geography loose in points familiar to the 
Greeks, they pronounced him a liar, and rejected all he wrote. 

I must therefore conclude that Pytheas, with all his fables, by 
Thule meant Iceland, and Iceland only ; moreover, that he 
had acquired some knowledge of the island. Indeed Gosselin 
opined that both Pytheas and Eratosthenes had had access to the 
memoirs of some unknown ancient people to whom Europe and 
its seas were as well known as to ourselves. He argues that 
this people could not have been Babylonians, Phoenicians, Car- 
thaginians, nor Egyptians. Bailly (Hist, de I'Astr. An., 1-3), 
entertaining a similar opinion, supposes them, after the fashion 
of the day, to be Antediluvians. 


Pomponius Mela (a.d. 41- 54 ; De Situ Orbis, iii. 6) is our next 
authority. After mentioning Britannia and Iverna, the thirty 
islands of the Orcades, the seven Haemodse (Shetlands) fronting 
Germany,^ and the Scandinavian Isle held by the Teutons,^ he says: 

G. G. Bredow (Untersuchungen, etc., ii, 122-129, Altona, 1800), C. H. Tzsclnic- 
kius (P. Mel?e, lib. tres, Lipsi^e, 1806, vol. iii., pp. 223-230), and J. I, Pontanu.s 
^Chorographica Danise Descriptio, Amstelodami, 1631, folio, p. 741), give many 
references to Pytheas. See also Histoire Litteraire de France, i. 71, et seq. ; 
Bougainville (]\Ienioires de Paris, xix. 146); D'Anville (Mem. de Paris, xxxii. 
436, and his objections to the traveller having visited Iceland, 50, 441) ; Murray 
(Nov. Comm. Soc. Goetting, vi. 59-63, 82-86); Fournier ( Hydrographie, 322, et 
seq.); and Wagner (Ad Guthrie Allgem. "Welt. Gesch., xvi. 4). Forbiger (Hand- 
buch der Alt. Geog., iii., Leip. 1848) also quotes a multitude of authors, includ- 
ing Mannert, Humboldt, and Lelewel (Pytheas u. die Geo. Sein. Zeit., s. 30). 

^ These are the Acmodse of Pliny (iv. 30), which can only be the Shetlands. 
Salmasius identifies the Acmodaj, Hsemodse, and Hebrides. Camden makes them 
different, and refers the Acmodse to the Baltic. Parisot informs us that off the 
West Cape of Skye and the isle of North Uist (the nearest of the Hebrides to the 
Shetlands) there is a great gulf, which, being full of islands, is still called 
Mamaddy or Maddy — hence, possibly, the Greek *Ai Ma88di, and the Latin 
Memodse. According to Dr Charnock, the name in Keltic may be translated the 
" black head or hill," or the " hill of God." 

'^ Mela's " Scandinovia " is one of six islands which are described rather as parts of 
a great peninsula than as regular " insulse. " Amongst their Sarmatian population 
are the Otense (egg-eaters), the Hippopodse (horse-feet), and the Panoti (all-ears), 
whose existence is attested by credible travellers {Cf. p. 165, Geografia di Pomponio 
Mela, by Giovanni Francesco Muratori, Torino, Stamperia Reale, 1855). 


" Thule fronts the seaboard of the Belcse (alii Belgse and Bergse),^ an island cele- 
brated in the Greek poetry and in our own. There, as the sun rises to set afar 
off, the nights are indeed short ; but during winter, as in other places, obscure ; 
in summer they are light, because throughout that season (the sun), already 
raising himself higher (above the horizon), despite not being seen, yet illuminates 
the nearest parts by his approaching splendour. At the solstices there is no 
darkness, because then (the sun), becoming more manifest, shows not only his 
rays, but the gi'eater jDart " (of his disc). 


The next authority is Pliny (nat. A.D. 23, ob. a.d. 79), who 
makes Thule the northernmost British island. Both he and 
Csesar (Bell. Gall., v. 13), placing Mona about N. lat. 66°, declare 
that the sun does not set in summer, but perpetually disappears 
during the winter solstice. To the former phase Caesar assigns 
thirty days, Pliny six months {senis mensibus). The great 
natural philosopher mentions the Massilian traveller without 
abusing him : 

" Pytheas informs us that this is the case (i.e., the day lasting six months, and 
the night being of equal length) in the island of Thule, which is six days' sail 
from the north of Britain" (Nat. Hist., vol. i., book ii., chap. 77, Bostock and 
Riley, Bohn, 1835). 

In book iv., chap. 30, occurs : 

' ' The most remote of all that we find mentioned is Thule, in which, as we 
have previously stated, there is no night at the summer solstice, when the sun is 
passing through the sign of Cancer; while, on the other hand, at the winter 
solstice there is no day. " 

Again (loc. cit.) : 

" There are writers also who make mention of some other islands, Scandia, 
namely, Dumna, Bergos, and, greater than all, Nerigos (or Nerigo, Noreg, i.e., 
Norway), from which persons embark for Thule. At one day's sail from Thule, 
is the Frozen Ocean, which by some is called the Cronian Sea. " 

Finally, in book vi., chap. 39, we find : 

" The last of all is the Scythian parallel,^ which runs from the Eiphsean range 

^ Camden suggests that " Belcarum " was a clerical error for '* Bergarum. " But 
Mela places Bergse on the confines of Scythia and Asia, and he joins the Caspian 
with the Northern Ocean (iii. 5). 

'■^ To understand the full significance of this sentence, we must consult the 
context. The first "additional parallel," whose longest day was sixteen hours, 


to Thule, in which, as we have already stated, the year is divided into days and 
nights alternately of six months' duration. " 

With these passages before us, it is easy to understand why 
popular writers generally assume Pliny's Thule to be the Shetland 
Isles. But he evidently confirms the account of Pytheas, and 
adds the significant detail about the Cronian or Frozen Sea. It is 
well established that the ocean south of Iceland is not icy, 
whilst the northern and western shores are often frost-bound. 


Claudius Ptolemy, the Pelusian (flor. a.d. 159-161) notices 
GovXt) in nine places. After correcting (book 1, chap. 20, §§ 7, S,^ 
= p. 17^) the errors of Maximus of Tjre, he says (book i., chap. 
24, § 4, = p. 19) : " Consequently also the parallel passing through 
Thule shall be laid down as v ^' (52) sections from 77 to ^ 77, 
along the lines of latitude f , o, tt." The same chapter (§ 6, = p. 
20) tells us, " Also shall be comprehended the interval between 
o and K southwards, that is, between the parallels passing 
through Thule and through Ehodes k ^ (27) sections." Thirdly, 
the same chapter (§ 17, = p. 22) continues: " k, through which 
shall be described the line (of latitude) defining the north, and 
falling on the island of Thule." Fourthly, in the same (§ 20, = 
p. 22), we find : " And as to fjurJKo'; (the longitude) is commen- 
surable with TO 7rXaT09 (the latitude), since upon the sphere 
whose gTeat circle is five, of these the parallel passing through 
Thule is about ^ and B' " (2J). 

Book ii., chap. 3, § 32, — p. 28, establishes the position of Thule : 

" And above them (the Orkades) is the (island of) Thule, whose — 

ran through " the Daci and part of Germany, and the Gallic provinces, as far as 
the shores of the ocean." The second traversed " the country of the Hyperborei 
and the island of Britannia, the longest day being seventeen hours in length." 
The third is far more applicable to Iceland than to the Shetland or Fseroe groups. 

1 C. Ptolempei Geographia, edidit Carolus Fredericus Augustus Nobbe, Lipsise, 
1843. A correct text, 

^ C. Ptolemsei, etc., libri octo, ex Bilibaldi Pirckeymheri translatione, Lugduni. 
1535. When may geographical students hope to see a portable English transla- 
tion of Ptolemy, and be saved the mortification of carrying about this uncomfort- 
able folio ? The work was proposed many years ago to the Eoyal Geographical 
Society, and was rejected, I believe, on the grounds of Ptolemy being a mathe- 
matical writer. The paragraphs in the text refer to the Greek, the pages to the 
Latin translation. 





31° 40' 



30° 20' 

J > 

63° 15' 

30° 20' 

? » 

62° 40' 

30° 20' 

J > 

63° " 


Western parts are in . . E. long. (Ferro ?) 29 
The Easternmost being in 

,, Northernmost ,, 

,, Southernmost ,, 
And the Mid Isle in, . 

The sixth book (chap. 16, § 1, = p. 113) tells us : 

"Serica is bounded west by Scythia beyond the Imaus mountain, according 
to the line laid down ; on the north by an unknown land on the parallel passing 
through Thule ; on the east by regions also unknown, along the meridional line 
whose limits are : 

"E. long. 180° ■ N. lat. 63° 

„ 18° „ 35°" 

Again we find (book vii., chap. 5, § 12, = p. 125) : 

'* But the northern part is bounded by the parallel which is north of the 
equinoctial line 63 parts {i.e., N. lat. 63°), and this is described through Thule, 
the Island. So that the breadth of the known world is 76° 25', or in round num- 
bers, 80 degrees." ^ 

Lastly (book viii., chap. 3, § 3, = p. 131) we are told : 

'* But the (Island) Thule has its greatest day of twenty equinoctial hours, and 
from Alexandria it is distant two equinoctial hours to the west. " ^ 

Thus Ptolemy's Thule is along narrow island, 160 by 35 miles, 
and his description, despite the times in which he wrote, is 
applicable rather to North Britain and even to Iceland, than to 
Scandinavia. He is consistent in his assertions : (1.) That Thule 
is an island; (2.) That its northernmost point extends4o 3° 17' 
south of the Polar circle (66° 32') ; (3.) That it lies north of the 
Orcades.^ Manifestly we cannot rely upon the longitudes, 
Ptolemy's first meridian being still sich judice. The late Mr 

1 Ptolemy assumes the southernmost part of the old world to be in S. lat. 16° 20' 
instead of S. lat. 34° 51' 12" (Cape Agulhas). Already in 1800, G. G. Bredow (loc. 
cit.), recognising the imperfect graduation, had reduced Ptolemy's N. lat. 57° to 
N. lat. 51° 15', and N. lat. 62° to N. lat. 55° 15'. 

2 Lempriere and other popular books, contain the following curious assertion : 
"Ptolemy places the middle of his Thule in 63° of latitude, and says that at the 
time of the equinoxes, the days were twenty -four hours, which could not have 
been true at the equinoxes, but must have referred to the solstices, and therefore 
this island is supposed to have been in 66° latitude, that is, under the Polar circle. " 
La Martiniere, of whom more presently (sub voce Thule), makes no such blunder. 
Ptolemy gives N. lat. 63° and twenty hours, in which he is followed by Agathe- 

^ It is suggested (Notes on Eichard of Cirencester) that beginning with the 
Novantum Chersonesis (Mull of Galloway ?), in E. long. (Ferro ?) 21°, the latitudes 
were mistaken for the longitudes, hence Cape Orcas (Duncansby Head ?) was 
thrown to the east, E. long. (Ferro ?) 31° 20'. 


Hogg suggested^ that the zero of longitude was not, as "usually 
assumed, at Ferro in the Fortunate Islands (W. long. (G.) 24° 23' 40" 
to 24° 34'), but at " S. Antonio, Cape Verd Islands " (read Sao 
Antao2) in W. long. (G.) 25° 2' 40" to 25° 25' 45''— a change which 
would give in round numbers a difference of fifty miles.^ Nothing 
more need be added upon this head. Pytheas and Eratosthenes 
evidently referred to Iceland ; Mela did the same in making 
it front Bergen ; Pliny heard of it when he relates that from 
Nerigos persons embark for Thule; and neglecting Ptolemy's 
latitudes and longitudes, his description tallies best with Iceland. 



Of Thule applied to some part of Great Britain we have 
a multitude of instances, which are ably and lengthily brought 
together by Sir Eobert Sibbald.* Our writer begins by estab- 
lishing the fact that the ancients connected the idea of darkness 
with the north. 

' ' These places of Homer irpbs ^6<pov (ad caliginem), and ov yhp IS/neu Sttov ^o^ov 
(neque enim scimus ubi sit caligo), are by Strabo (ii. § 6) interpreted of the north, 
" Nescimus ubi sit Septentrio " (We know not where the north is). 

He quotes TibuUus (nat. circ. B.C. 54 ; iv. 1, 154) : 

" Illic et dens4 tellus absconditur umbrL" 

And Pub. Papinius Statins (nat. circ. a.d. 61 ; Sylv., iii., Ad 
Claudiam Uxorem, v. 20) : 

" Vel super Hesperise vada caligantia Thiles," 

1 *' On some old maps of Africa, etc.," a valuable paper read before the British 
Association, August 1863 : Herr Kiepert is greatly indebted to it, 

2 The error " S. Antonio," for " Sao Antao," is not the learned Mr Hogg's ; it 
is common to Norie and other books on navigation. 

3 It is regretable that geographers lost the excellent opportunity offered by the 
Vienna "Weltausstellung of 1873, to determine in congress a single ^om^ de depart 
of longitude for the civilised world. Now each nation has the pretension of making 
a first meridian of its own, consequently whilst geographical readers have a fair 
conception of latitude, that of longitude is especially hazy. I only hope we shall 
not lose sight of the desideratum in the Geographical Congress of Paris (1875). 

^ " A Discourse concerning the Thule of the Ancients," by Sir Robert Sibbald, 
vol. iii., Gough's Camden (Britannia, etc.) of 1787. See also Gibson's edition of 
Camden, Lond. 1695, and Frankfort edition, 1602. 


Again (Sylv., iv. 4, 62) : 

" aut rigrse littora Thule. ' 

And again (Sylv., v. 1, 90, 91) : 

" quantum ultimus orbis, 

Cesserit et refluo circumsona gurgite Thule." 

Strabo (book ii., chap. 4, § 8) is quoted to show by Pytheas, 
that Thule is " one of those islands that are called British," and 
we have seen Strabo's own opinion that it lies farther south 
than where the Massilian placed it. He quotes Catullus (b.c. 
87 ; Ad Furium Carm., xii.) : 

' ' Sive trans altas gradietur Alpes, 
Cgesaris visens monumenta magni, 
Gallicum Khenum, horribilesque ultim- 
osque Britannos ; " 

and Horace (i. 35, 30) : 

"Serves iturum Csesarem in ultimos 
Orbis Britannos ; " 

to show that the Britons were the northernmost people then 
known. Due use is made of Silius Italicus (nat. circ. a.d. 25 ; 
Punic, lib. xvii., 417, 418) : 

" Coerulus baud alitur cum dimicat incola Thule, 
Agmina falcifero circumvenit arcta covino," 

for it appears from Caesar's Commentaries, that the bluish colour 
and the fighting out of hooked chariots were in use among the 
inhabitants of Britain. Pliny also (K H., iv. 30) treats of Thule 
in the same chapter where he treats of the British Isles, " ultima 
omnium quae memoratum est Thule." Tacitus says (Agric. 
Vita, cap. x.) when the Eoman navy sailed about Britain, " dis- 
pecta est et Thule." ^ 

^ The full passage of Tacitus is, "Hanc oram novissimi maris (the Deucale- 
donian Sea) tunc primum Komana classis circumvecta, insulam esse Britanniam 
affirmavit, ac simul incognitas ad id tern pus insulas, quas Orcades vocant, invenit 
domuitque. Dispecta est et Thule " (alii "Thyle"and "Tyle") " quadam trans : nix 
et hiems appetebat ; sed mare pigrum et grave remigantibus : perhibent, ne ventis 
quidem perinde attolli ; credo quod rariores terrse montesque, causa ac materia 
tempestatura et profunda moles continui maris tardius impellitur." Plutarch 
tells Tis (Life of Csesar) that the very existence of such a place as Britain had been 
doubted. When Diodorus Siculus wrote (temp. J. Caesar and Augustus), the 
British Isles were amongst the regions'least known to the world : ""RKiara ireTTToiKev 
virb T7)v KoivT]v^dv6pd}Tru}u iTrlyvwatv^' (lib. iii.). Eusebius (nat. circ. A.u. 264) tells 
us in his Chronicon, " Claudius de Britannis triumphavit, et Orcades insulas 


' Ireland, properly so called, was the first of the British Isles 
which got the name Thule, being the first that the Carthaginians 
met with as they steered their course from Cadiz to the west ; and 
hence it is that Statins (Ad Claud. Uxor., lib. iii., v. 20) calls 
Thule ' Hesperia,' and it seems to be the same that is said by 
(the pseudo) Aristotle (Liber de Mirab. Auscult) to have been 
discovered by the Carthaginians when he speaks thus (Ixxxv.) : 

" * In the sea beyond the Pillars of Hercules, they say, the Carthaginians found 
a fertile island uninhabited, abounding in wood and navigable rivers, and stored 
with very great plenty of fruits (fructibics) of all sorts, ^ distant several days' voyage 
from the continent.' 

And Bochartus (Geog. Sac.) confirms this by what he observes, 
that an ancient author, Antonius Diogenes,^ who wrote tv/enty- 
four books of the strange things (or Incredibilities) related of 
Thule,^ not long after the time of Alexander the Great, had his 
history from the Ciparis Tables, dug at Tyre out of the tombs of 
Mantinea and Dercilis (Dercyllides), who had gone from Tyre to 
Thule, and had stayed some time there. But though this be the 
first Thule discovered by the Carthaginians, yet it is not that 
mentioned by the Eoman writers, for they speak of the Thule 
which the Eomans were in and made a conquest of, but it is 
certain they were never in Iceland properly so called. 

Komano adjecit imperio." Orosius (circ. a.d. 415) adds (vii. 6, Hist. Adver. 
Pag,, libri vii.), " Cognitse insulse erant forte et ante Claudium et sub Claudio, 
non quidem armis Romanis, sed mercatoribus, aut etiam eruditis, Mela teste." 
And Mela, who wrote in the days of Claudius, assures us (iii. 6), " Triginta sunt 
Orcades angustis inter se diductse spatiis." 

^ The mention of fruits in this passage banishes the idea of Iceland. 

2 Diogenes of Apollonia flourished in the fifth century B.C., and also wrote Trepl 
<f)6(r€0}s — concerning nature — a treatise on physical science. In the days 
when Hanno the Carthaginian, passing the Mediterranean Straits, explored the 
western coast of Africa, an event usually placed in the fifth century B.C., although 
Gosselin (Recherches sur la Geogi'aphie des Anciens) goes back as far as the tenth, 
Himilco (Pliny, N. H., ii. 67) was also sent to explore the remote parts of Europe. 
Sailing along the shores of Gadir, Tartessus (Tarshish), and Gallicia, he reached 
the Tin Isles, His Periplus, originally deposited in a temple at Carthage, was 
used by Dionysius, and was versified by Rufus Festus Avienus in the fourth cen- 
tury, in his iambic poem " De Oris Maritimis. " He himself says : 

*' Hgec nos ab imis Punicorum annalibus, 
Prolata longo tempore edidimus tibi," 

And Dodwell justly observes (Dissert, de Peripli Hannonis ^tati): " Ea causa 
satis verisimilis esse potuit, cur tamdiu Grsecos latuerit Himilco, etiam eos qui 
colleges meminerint Hannonis. " 

^ Td virep QovXrjs dinaTa. An abridgment is preserved by the learned Patriarch 
Photius in his Myriobiblion seu Bibliotheca. 


" That they were in Thule appears from Statius (Sylv., v. 2, 54) : 

* ' ' quantusqne nigrantem 

Fluctibus occiduis fessoque Hyperione Thulen 
Intr^rit mandata gerens.' 

ISTow the father of Crispinus, to whom he writes, was Vectius 
Bolanus, governor of Britain, a.d. 69, under Vitellius (as Tacitus 
informs us), which is clearly proved by the same poet (Sylv., v. 
2, 140-143) : 

* * ' Quod si te magno tellus frenata parent! 
Accipiat — 

Quanta Caledouios attoUet gloria campos ! 
Cum tibi longgevus referet trucis incola terrse ; 
Hie suetus dare jura parens. ' 

The words 'Caledonios ' and ' trucis incola terrae ' clearly show that 
by Thule is meant the north part of Britain, which was then pos- 
sessed by the Picts, designed by the name ' Caledonios,' and by 
the Scots, designed as ' trucis incola terrse,' the same epithet 
that Claudian (De Bell. Get., 416) gives to the Scots in these 
verses : 

' ' * Yenit et extremis legio prsetenta Britannis, 
Quae Scoto dat frsena truci, ferroque notatas 
Perlegit exsangues Picto moriente figuras.' 

And of this north part of Britain that verse of Juvenal (Sat., xv. 

" ' De conducendo loquitur jam rhetore Thule, '^ 

is also to be understood. Of this the best exposition is taken 
from Tacitus (Agric, xxi.) : 

" ' Jam vero principum filios, liberalibus artibus erudire, et ingenia Britannorum 
studiis Gallorum anteferre, ut qui modo linguam Eomanum abnuebant, eloquen- 
tiam concupiscerent.' 

" Claudian (De III. Consul. Honor., 52-56) yet more particu- 
larly gives the name of Thule to the north part of Britain : 

** ' Facta tui numerabat avi, quem littus adustse 
Horrescit Libyse, ratibusque impervia Thule. 
Ille leves Mauros, nee falso nomine Pictos 
Edomuit, Scotumque vago mucrone secutus, 
Fregit Hyperboreas remis audaeibus undas. ' 

^ Juvenal here ironieally describes the progress of Greek and Roman letters 
towards the barbarous north. The Britons are learning eloquence from the Gauls, 
and even Thule thinks of hiring a rhetorician. 


And in these lines (De IV. Consul. Honor., 26-33) : 

' ' ' Ille, Caledoniis posiiit qui castra pruinis, 
Qui medios Libyse sub casside pertulit sestus, 
Terribilis Mauro, debellatorque Britanni 
Littoris, ac pariter Borese vastator et Austri. 
Quid rigor oeternus coeli, quid sidera prosunt ? 
Ignotumque fretum ? Maduerunt Saxone fuso, 
Orcades : incaluit Pictorum sanguine Thule : 
Scotorum cumulos flevit glacialis Terne, ' 

where, by placing the Moors and Britons as the remotest people 
then known, and mentioning the Scots and Picts as the in- 
habitants of Thule and lerne, he demonstrates clearly that 
Thule is the north part of the isle of Britain, inhabited by the 
Scots and Picts. For this lerne, or, as some read it, * Hyberne,' 
can no w^ay be understood of Ireland properly so called ; first, 
because Ireland can never deserve the epithet ' glacialis,' ^ since, 
by the testimony of the Irish writers, the snow and ice continue 
not any time there ; secondly, the Eomans were never in Ireland, 
wdiereas, according to the above-mentioned verses, Theodosius 
passed over the Friths of Forth and Clyde, called by him 
' Hyperborese undse,' and entered Strathearn, which to this day 
bears the name lerne ; in w^hich Eoman medals are found, and 
the Eoman camps and military ways are to be seen — the un- 
doubted testimonies of their being there ; and therefore is so to 
be understood in the same poet's lines upon Stilicho (see De 
Laud. Stilich., lib. ii., 250-254), who was employed in the British 
war : 

" ' Me quoque vicinis pereuntem gentibus, inquit, 
Me juvit Stilicho, totam cum Scotus lernen 
Movit, et infesto spumavit remige Tethys. 
Illius efFectum curis, ne tela timerem 
Scotica, ne Pictum tremerem. ' 

Now, Tethys in these verses, and the ' undse Hyperborese ' in 
the verses before mentioned, cannot be understood of the sea 
between Scotland and Ireland, for Ireland lies to the south of 
the Eoman province, and the situation of the Scots' and Picts' 

1 For "glacialis," see Adrian Junius before quoted. The high-sounding and 
convenient epithet seems to have been applied to lerne, as '* ultima" to Thule. 
If the Romans did not hold Ireland, at any rate they knew it well : " Melius aditus 
portusque, per commercia et negotiatores cognita " (Tacit. Agricol., xxiv.). 


country is to the north of it ; for it was separated by the two 
Friths of Forth and Clyde from the Eoman province, which 
clearly shows it was to be understood of them : the same thing 
that is also imported by the words ' Hyperboreas undas ' and 
' remis ; ' for these cannot be understood of the Irish Sea, which 
is to the south of the Eoman province, and is very tempestuous, 
and cannot so well be passed by oars as the Friths of Forth and 
Clyde. And the same poet has put this beyond all doubt (in 
the verses before quoted, De Bell. Get., 416). 

" For were it to be understood of the Irish Sea, then the wall 
and the ' prsetenturse ' (legio prcetentct) should have been placed 
upon the Scottish shore that was over against that country, 
which is called Strathearn now, and is the true lerne not only 
mentioned by Claudian, but also by Juvenal in these verses 
(I. Sat., ii. 160) : 

* ' ' Arma quidem ultra 
liitora Juvernse promovimus, et modo captas 
Orcadas, ac minima contentos nocte Britannos. ' 

" That this Thule was a part of Britain, the Eoman writers 
seem to be very clear, especially Silius Italicus in the verses 
before quoted. 

" But to make it appear which part of Britain the Thule was 
which is mentioned by the Eomans, it will be fit to see to which 
part of Britain the epithets attributed by writers to Thule do 
best agree. First, then, it was a remote part, ' ultima Thule,' as 
if this were the remotest part of Britain ; so Tacitus (Agric, xxx.) 
brings in Galgacus expressing it, ' We, the uttermost bounds of 
land and liberty,' etc. Then Thule was towards the north, and 
so was this country with respect to the Eoman province ; and, 
thirdly, it might deserve the name Thule (darkness), because of 
its obscure and dark aspect, it being in those days all overgrown 
with woods. Fourthly, the length of the day annexed to Thule ; 
and, upon this account, it must be the country to the north and 
to the east of lerne, by the verses of Juvenal before mentioned 
(V. Sat., XV. 112). 

" Another property of Thule given by Tacitus (loc. cit.) is that 
about it is 'mare pigrum et grave remigantibus/ which agrees 
indeed to the sea upon the north-east part of Scotland, but not 


for the reason that Tacitus gives, i.e., for want of winds, but 
because of the contrary tides which drive several ways, and 
stop not only boats with oars, but ships under sail. 

" But Thule is most expressly described to be this very same 
country that we treat of by Conradus Celtes : 

" ' Orcadibus qu^ cincta siiis Tyle et glacialis 
Insula. ' 

"This same epithet Claudian (see p. 15) gives to lerne, when 
he calls it ' Glacialis lerne ; ' and this Thule he makes to be en- 
compassed ' suis Orcadibus,' which isles lie over-against it ; and 
a little after he gives it the like epithet with ' mare pigrum.' 

*' * Et jam sub septem spectant vaga rostra Triones 
Qua Tyle est rigidis insula cincta vadis. ' 

And afterwards he makes the Orcades to lie over-against this 
Thule, and seems to have in his eye the skerries and weels in 
Pictland (Pentland ?) Frith in these lines : 

' ' * Est locus Arctoo qu^ se Germania tractu 

Claudit, et in rigidis Tyle ubi surgit aquis, 
Quam juxta infames scopuli et petrosa vorago 

Asperat undisonis saxa pudenta vadis 
Orcadas has memorant dictas a nomine Grseco. ' ^ 

" But the clearest testimony of all we owe to Arngrimus Jonas 
(Specimen Islandicum, a.d. 1593),^ when he brings in the verses 
of Fortunatus (lib. viii., cap. 1), who sings of St Hilarion (ob. 
A.D. 372) : 

** 'Eloquii currente rotS, penetravit ad Indos, 
Ingeniumque potens ultima Thule colit. ' 

1 In Icelandic " Orkn " and ** Orkn-selr " are applied to a seal. (Com- 
pare Lat. orca, supposed to be the grampus : Cleasby.) Pliny makes orca a 
kind of dolphin {D. orca), and orec or ore is the Gaelic form ; hence Cape Orcas, 
which is popularly identified with Dunnet Head, the extreme northern point of 
Scotland. We have no need to derive '* Orkneys" from elya/cw (coercio), these 
isles breaking and restraining the force of the raging waves ; or from " Erick " or 
*' Orkenwald," or any other " Pictish prince famous there at its first plantation." 

^ The Crymoggea (Sive De Eeb. Isl., Hamb. 1593) of this learned Icelander will 
be found analysed in Purchas, vol. iii., and Hakluyt, vol. i. His principal 
argument is very unsatisfactory : "If Iceland is taken to have been the classical 
Thule, it must have been inhabited in the days of Augustus, which is contrary to 
the chronicles of the island." This author's chief objection is thus stated by 
himself: "Si etenim Islandia idem esset cum Thule, rueret totum hujus narra- 
tionis fundamentum de Islandia A.c. 874 habitari primum csepta ;" an objection 
which will be considered elsewhere. Meanwhile I prefer the opinion of the 
equally learned Pontanus, who says of Iceland : " Non heri aut hodie quod dicitur 
fuit frequentata, sed habuit indigenas suos multa ante ssecula." 

VOL. I. B 


" And then reckoning up the several nations enlightened by 
him, he mentions Britain amongst the rest : 

" ' Tlirax, Italus, Scytha, Persa, Indus, 
Geta, Daca, Britannus.'^ 

" To which he adds, * From whence it may fairly enough be 
inferred that either Britain or (as Pliny will have it) some 
island of Britain was the ultima Thule! And afterwards, 
' To confirm the opinion of Pliny and his followers, who will 
have some of the British Isles, or particularly, that farthest 
in the Scottish dominions to be Thule, I must acknowledge 
that the history of the kings of Norway says the same thing, 
in the life of King Magnus, who, in an expedition to the 
Orcades and Hebrides and into Scotland and Britain, touched 
also at the Island of Thule and subdued it.' 

" By all this, I think, it appears sufficiently that the north- 
east part of Scotland, which Severus the emperor and Theodosius 
the Great infested with their armies, and in which, as Boethius^ 
shows us, Eoman medals were found, is undoubtedly the Thule 
mentioned by the Eoman writers ; and this also, if we believe 
the learned Arngrimus Jonas, was meant by Ptolemy, where he 
saith, that, to the twenty-first parallel drawn through Thule by 
Ptolemy, the latitude answers to 55° 36', so that our country in 
those ancient times passed under the name of Thule and 
Hibernia, and the 'Hiberni et Picti, incolae Thules' are the 
same people who were afterwards called Scots.^ 

" I shall only add one remark more, and that is, that we need 
not have recourse for the rise of the name Scot, to the fabulous 

1 According to Dr Charnock, he speaks only of the Saca?, the Persa, and the 

2 Dr Bosworth (Anglo-Saxon Diet.) quotes Boethius (29, 11) : " 0th thaet iland 
the we hatath Thyle, thaet is on tham northwest ende thisses middaneardes thaer 
ne bith nawther ne on sumera niht, ne on wintra dseg " (To the island which 
we call Thule, that is on the north-west end of this middle earth, where there is 
neither night in summer nor day in winter). Cardale (1, 166) also : ** Thonne be 
norSan Ibernia is thaet ylemede landthset man hsetThila " (Thence to the north of 
Ibernia is that island which men call Thila). See also Orosius, 1, 2. 

^ The author here settles offhand a point disputed ad infinitum. Dr Charnock 
has shown that Scotland was at one time called Igbernia, Hibernia (the classical 
name of Ireland, corrupted from iar-in, the western isle), and from the end of the 
third to the beginning of the eleventh century, Scotia was used exclusively to 
indicate Ireland. 


account of the monks who bring it from Scota, Pharaoh's daugh- 
ter, married to Gathelus; since without that strain, if it be 
granted that the country was once called Thule, which in the 
Phoenician language signifies ' darkness,' we have a very fair 
reason for the name Scotia, which signifies the same in the 
Greek tongue. And it is very well known that it was usual 
with the Greeks (who next to the Phoenicians were the best 
navigators) not only to retain the Phoenician name of the place, 
but likewise to give one in their own language of the same 
import ; and since the learned Bochartus has very ingeniously 
deduced the Greek name of the whole island, BperaviKr], from Bra- 
tanack and Barat anac,^ in the Phoenician tongue signifying * a 
land of tin ' (which the Greeks not only reduced to their own 
termination, but likewise called the British isles ^ Kao-o-tTeptSes, 
that is, ' lands of tin,'^ which is the signification of the Phoeni- 

■^ ^Axlt Hyj {Barrat el Tanak), "tanak" being the Arabic for tin. — Dr 

Charnock in liis various writings (Local Etymology, etc.), after referring to the 
derivation of Britannia from tlie Punic djn mn, barat-anac, the land of tin or 
lead ; and the Hebrew Nnn, bara, in Pihel, to create, produce ; quoting Camden, 
Owen, Clarke, Borlase, Bochart, Boerhave, Shaw, 13osworth, and Armstrong, 
gives the following suggested derivations of the name from the Keltic, viz. : from 
its inhabitants, the Bi^thon ; from brit, brith, of divers colours, spotted (^^3, brd, 
pi. amn, brdim, spots, spotted with colours) ; brdith-tumn, (the land on) the top 
of the wave ; from Yioys Frydain, the fair island ; from Prydyn, son of Aez the 
Great; from bri, dignity, honour; from Brutus, a fabulous king of Britain ; from 
bret, high, tain, a river ; but Dr Charnock inclines to derive the name from 
brct-inn, the high island. It need hardly be said that the Tin Islands (Cassiterides) 
contained no tin; like Zanzibar, they were probably a mere dep6t where the Phoe- 
nicians met the savages of the interior. 

2 In the following verse of Catullus (Carm. 27) : 

' ' Hunc Gallffi timent, hunc timent Britannise, " 

we find " Britain " used to denote the whole of the British Isles. 

^ Kassiterides is Aryan not Semitic ; the metal in Sanskrit being Kastlra, 
which, like the Arabic Khasdir, may be from the Greek. The Scilly islands were 
also called ^Estrumnides, a name which occurs in E. Festus Avienus (loc. cit.): 

*' Ast hinc duobus in sacram, sic insulam 
Dixere prisci, solibus cursus rati est. 
Hsec inter undas multum cespitem jacit, 
Eam que late gens Hibernorum colit. 
Propinqua rursus insula Albionum patet. 
Tartesiisque in terminos ^Estrumnidum 
Negociandi mos erat Carthaginis 
Etiam colonis, et vulgus inter Herculis 
Agitans columnas hsec adibant sequora." 

All this, be it remembered, is borrowed from Punic sources. Therefore Hibernia 
is explained by Bochart as "nihil aliud quam ultima habitatio," and Keltic 
lerne is translated the ** uttermost point." 


cian and Greek names) ; we may take the same liberty to derive 
the Greek name Scotia from Phoenician Thule ;^ but this is so 
fully treated of in the ' Scotia Antiqua/ that I need say no 

To these authorities may be added Silius Italicus (lib. iii., 
597), who manifestly places "unknown Thule" about Scotland: 

" Hinc pater ignotam donabit vincere Thulen 
Inqiie Caledonios primus trahit agmina lucos." 

E. Festus Avienus (Descr. Orb. Ter.), metaphrasing Dionysius, 
treats of Thule when speaking of Britain, and yet gives "the 
unknown island " an Arctic day : 

** Longa dehinc celeri si quis rate marmora currat, 
Inveniet vasto surgentem gurgite Thulen ; 
Hinc cum plaustra poll tangit Phcebeius ignis 
Nocte sub inlustri rota solis fomite flagrat 
Continud clarumque diem nox oeucula ducit." 

We have also the testimony of Eichard of Cirencester (Eicardus 
Coronensis, ob. circ. A.D, 1401), who tells us (De Situ Britannise) 
that in the time of the later emperors, " Thule " was applied to 
Valentia or Valentiana, the district between the wall of Severus 
and the rampart of Antoninus, including the south part of Scot- 
land, Northumberland, and a portion of Cumberland. 

It might have been supposed that the distinct mention of the 
Orcades and Hebrides^ by Pliny (N. H., lib. iv., cap. 30), and 
by Ptolemy (lib. ii., cap. 3, § 32, = p. 28), would have barred their 
claim to the classic title. This is far from being the case. 
John Brand (A Brief Description of Orkney, etc., Edin. 1701, 
Pinkerton, iii., p. 782), after quoting Claudian and Conradus 

^ The Greeks were in the habit of borrowing their geographical terms from the 
indigenag, not from the Phoenicians. Yet Dodwell is hardly justified in rejecting 
Hanno's Periplus because Greek names occur instead of Phcenician. I have 
already derived their Erythraean Sea from the Sea of Edom, and the Sea of Him- 

yar (of which the root is j^^^^j redness); and the "Mountains of the Moon" 

from Unyamwezi, still shortened on the coast to Mwezi, the general name for the 
moon in the great south African family of languages. Dr Charnock (Local Ety- 
mology) says, ** Scotland is the land of the Scoti, who by some have been con- 
sidered as identical with the TiKijOat, Scythse, who may have been named from their 
great skill in the use of the bow, their principal weapon, " and he gives 0. Teut. 
scutten, scuthen, archers ; Gael, sciot, au arrow, dart. 

^ Surely there is no reason why Macpherson should derive Hebrides from 
Ey-brides, islands of St Bride or Brigida, the Vesta of the North. 


Celtes, with others who call Thule " Britannicarum insularum 
septentrionissimam/' thus disposes of Iceland : 

" I greatly doubt if ever the Romans had the knowledge of Iceland, their eagles 
never having come and been displayed to the north of Scotland or Orkney. 
' Imperii fuerat Romani Scotia limes,' saith the great Scaliger. Ptolemy will 
have it to be among the Isles of Zetland ; and Boethius, our historian (Boethius, 
in p. 740, also in p. 755, which quotes from his life of Mainus, king of Scots), 
distinguisheth between a first and a second Thule, calling Ila the first, and 
Louisa the second, which are reckoned among the isles called Hebrides. 
' Ptolemseus inter Schethlandicas insulas, quse ultra Orchades sunt, aut proxime 
Norwegiam sitam vult, hand quaquam propter immensam intercapedinem intel- 
ligi potest, nos autem Ham (Islay?) primam Leuisam (Lewis) Hebridum prte- 
stantissimam secundam Thulen vocamus.' But I am inclined to think that 
although some might design a particular place by the Thule, yet generally by a 
synecdoche, usual with the Roman authors, they might denote all those places 
remote from them to the north, and especially Britain and the northern parts 
thereof, whither their arms did come." 

The Shetland claimants take another line of argument. 
Eutropius (a.d. 330-375, lib. vii.) makes the emperor Claudius, 
during his invasion of Britain (a.d. 43) annex the Orkneys : 
" Quasdam insulas etiani ultra Britanniam, in oceano positas, 
Komano imperio addidit, quae appellantur Orcades." Pliny, 
they say, endorses Pytheas Massiliensis, who writes that Thule 
is six days' sail north of Britain. Tacitus (loc. cit.) declares that 
Agricola sailed round Britain, conquered the Orcades, and saw 
Thule. The latter cannot be the Orcades or Hebrides, because 
both are mentioned by Pliny, and as their northerly point is not 
so far north as Cape Wrath, they could hardly be described as 
" ultra Britanniam." Caithness and other parts of Scotland are 
put out of court, since they are all to the south of Orkney, 
and therefore not beyond it. The Fseroes and Iceland are 
excluded, because they were both too distant to be visited by 
the frail galleys of the Eomans, unaided as they were, either by 
the compass or the science of navigation, and they could not 
possibly have been seen from Orkney. The same arguments 
apply to the Norwegian coast, which also is not an island, and is 
not situated north of Britain. 

By this " process of elimination," we are compelled to conclude 
that Shetland, and only Shetland, justifies the descriptions and 
allusions to the " Ultima Thule " contained in the Latin classics. 


It consists of islands which, viewed from afar, might be mistaken 
for one. It lies north of the Orkneys, from some parts of which 
Foula the Fair Isle, or the bluff of Fitfulhead, can be seen in 
clear weather. A passage of six days would be a fair average in 
the primitive barks of the Eomans, who were never much dis- 
tinguished for seamanship. The more positive proofs are the 
Koman coins found in the country, according to Dr Hibbert 
(Description of the Shetland Islands, Edin. 1822), and the ruins of 
a fortification in the island of Fetlar, which the same authority 
declares to be a Koman camp. 

It need hardly be observed that all these arguments are 
insufficient, and that the utmost they prove is the determination 
by Agricola and his men, that the venerable Thule was part of 
the Shetlands. Probably they saw only the loom of land to the 
north, and identified it with the ''period of earth." Possibly 
they might have been swayed by the verbal resemblance of 
Foula, which may be seen from the Orkneys: it is evidently 
Fogia or Fugla-ey, and the same desire to clear up a foggy point of 
geography, which made Abyssinian Bruce discover the sources of 
the Nile in the fountains of the Blue Eiver, found Thule in "Fowl- 
isle."^ The opinion, however, has found supporters. Gaspar 
Peucerus (De Terrse Dimensione) declares that the Ptolemeian 
Thule is to be recognised in the Shetlands, which he heard " the 
sailors call Thilensel " (Fugl-insel ?). Cellarius (Geog. Ant., ii. 
4) discovers Thule in the island of Hjaltland (Shetland), or in 
the Fseroe group, " quae in eadem fere latitudinem sunt." He is 
followed by Probus (Com. on Virgil, ii. 358), who makes Thule 
the farthest of the Orcades ; by the philosopher Petrus Eamus 
(de la Kamee) ; by Johannes Myritius, who rather cleaves to the 
end of Britain; by the learned Vossius, who prefers the Hebrides 
or Orcades; by Buchner (Ad Tacit. Agric, cap. 10); by Camden, 
by Gosselin, and others. Stephanus Byzantinus says : " Thule 
insula magna in oceano sub Hyperboreas partes, ubi sestivus dies 
ex viginti horis asqualibus constat, nox vero ex quatuor. Hyberna 
vero dies a contrario." This calculation would place Thule three 
degTces south of the Polar circle, and would better suit the Fseroe 

^ Compare "Fulhara" (volucnnn habitatio), the liome of fowls. 


arcliipelago (K lat. 61° 23' to 62° 26' 40^. rorcellini under- 
stauds Cellariiis also to refer to the Faeroes ; De Kerguelen 
Tremarec (Voyages) opines for Iceland. 


It lias been seen that Pliny (Nat. Hist., iv. 16) apparently 
separates Norway from Thule ; moreover, that Ptolemy (ii. 3) 
confirmed by Agatharcides and Stephanus Byzantinus (lib. i., in 
extremis), whilst pointing to North Britain and to Scandia, or 
Scandinavia, in his time held to be an island,^ and little known 
to the civilised world, adds details w^hich rather belong to 
Iceland. On the other hand, it is evident that during the later 
Eoman empire, Thule was applied to Scandinavia. 

Procopius, the Byzantine historian (nat. circ. A.D. 500), leaves 
no doubt upon this point. He devotes to it a considerable space 
(lib. ii., De Bello Gothico, c. 15), and his account will be little 
abridged. After relating how a party of Heruli, when conquered 
by the Longobardi, passed through the lands of the Slavini, the 
Varni (Ovdpvoi, al. Harmi), and the Dani (Aavot, al. Dacae), till they 
reached the ocean, he makes them take ship and settle at Thule : 

"The island is ten times larger tlian Britain, and far to the north. ^ The 
greater part of it is desert. The inhabited region contains thirteen great peoples, 
each governed by its own king. A curious phenomenon is reported from that 

^ Celsius, indeed, arguing from the universal concensus of the classical geogra- 
phers, believes in the former insularity of Scandinavia ; the secular upheaval of 
the coast, which in parts still continues, may account for its annexation to the 
continent. Thus Skani and Skaney (the -ey answering to the Latinised -avia), 
the modern term applied to Scania, the Scandinavia of Pliny and subsequent geo- 
graphers, is still given only to the southernmost point of the great northern 
peninsula, the first district known to the Romans. 

^ M. Bruzen La Martiniere (Grand Dictionnaire Geographique et Critique, fol., 
La Hage, 1738, and Venice, 1741) runs this sentence into the next, and makes the 
gi'eater part of northern Thule barren. The text is the reading adopted by the 
splendid edition of Claudius Malvetus (Greek and Latin, Yenetiis, 1729), and 
by the Latin translation, Basilise ex officin^ loannis Hervagii (anno 1531, pp. 
92-94, and not divided into chapters). As regards the Heruli, whom Procopius 
calls *E/)oi^Xot, we find in Stephanus Byzantinus (fifth century) *E\oi^/ooi ; in Sido- 
nius Apollinaris (fifth century, Carm. 7) : 

" Cursu Herulus, Hunnus jaculis, Francusque natatu;" 

and in Zonaras (twelfth century) 'AipoiXai. 


place : every year, about the summer solstice, the sun remains forty days above the 
horizon. Six months after this there is a night of forty days, a time of sorrow, 
when all intercourse and business are at an end. I (says Procopius) was greatly 
desirous of seeing this marvel for myself, but the opportunity was ever wanting. 
I therefore asked those who had been there how the sun rises and sets. They told 
me that for forty consecutive days, the sun lights the island ; sometimes from the 
east, at other times from the west ; but that when he returns to the same point 
where he appeared, a single day is counted. During the season of forty nights, 
time is measured by the moon. When thirty-five of these long and lasting nights 
have passed, some of the people ascend the highest mountains, and give warning 
to those below that after five days more they will see the sun. The Thulitfe 
rejoice over the good news, and celebrate in the dark a festival which in ceremony 
exceeds all their others. Although this happens every year, still it would appear 
the inhabitants apprehend a total desertion of the sun. 

" Amongst the barbarian peoples of Thule, none are so savage as the Skithifini 
{'2KcdL(pivoL, al. Scritifini). Like beasts,^ they ignore clothes and shoes ; they drink 
no wine, and they eat nothing which the earth grows. Both men and women, 
who will not take the trouble of cultivation, occupy themselves exclusively with 
hunting, and the forests and mountains supply them abundantly with game. 
They eat the flesh, and, being without flax and wool, they wear the skins, which 
they fasten with sinews, having no knowledge of sewing. Also, they do not bring 
up their off'spring like other people. The children of the Thulitse are fed upon 
the marrow of beasts, instead of being suckled by their mothers. When the 
woman has been delivered, she wraps her babe in a skin, secures it in another, 
places some brains in its mouth, and sets out with her man for the chase, in which 
both sexes equally excel. The Thulitse adore several gods and demons, some of 
whom they believe to inhabit the sky, others the air ; some are on the earth and 
in the sea, whilst others of the smaller kind, afiect the rivers and springs. They 
often offer sacrifices and immolate all manner of victims, the most acceptable being 
the first man captured in war ; he is sacrificed to Mars (Thor ?), the most powerful of 
all their gods. On these occasions they do not simply slay the victim, they either 
hang him to a tree, or roll him over thorns, or put him to death in some other 
way, choosing the most cruel. 

"Such are the customs of the ThuUtce, amongst whom are the Goths (ravToi)^ 
a fecund people that gave land to the Herulian immigrants. The remnants of 
this race who lived amongst the Romans, after slaying their king, sent their chief 
worthies to the island of Thule, for the purpose of finding if any of the royal 
blood there remained. The deputies were successful, and chose out of many one 
who pleased them the most. But as he died on the way, they returned (to Thule) 
and brought with them one Todasius {Toddaios, al. Datis) ; this man was accom- 

1 La Martiniere informs us that the Skithifini, Scritifini, or Scrithifinni of Pro- 
copius were the Scritofinni of Paulus Diaconus (sixth century), and the Crefennse or 
Scretofennse of Jornandes (sixth century). This Scandinavian tribe, according to 
Hermanides (Descriptio Norwegise, p. 46), held the country afterwards called 
Scredevinda or Scriticivinda, extending along the coasts of the Boreal Ocean from 
the confines of Finmark to the beginning of White Sea, and now included in 
Russian Lapland. The account of Procopius also tallies with those of the ancient 


panied by his brother named Aordus {"Aop8os) and by two hundred youths of the 


This description of Thule is evidently great Scandinavia, not 
little Iceland. Hence Ortilius (Thesaurus sub voc.) D'Anville, 
who rejects Iceland ; Farnaby, Schoenning (Yon Nordich. Land in 
Neue Allg. Welt-Gesch, vol. xiii., p. 14, et seq.) ; Eudbeck, who 
understands Sweden; Murray (loc. cit.); Wedel (Alhandlung 
liber die " Alt-Scandinavische Gesch.," p. 32, et seq.) ; Schlozer 
(Allg. Nordisch. Gesch, pp. 14, 16), Parisot, and other geographers, 
have referred the descriptions of Procopius especially to the 
Norwegian canton still called " Tyle-mark," or " Tile-mark." 
Maltebrun (iii. 6) prefers Jutland, on the continent of Denmark, 
part of which, he hears, is still termed " Thy " or " Thy-land." 
Calstron believed that all Scandinavia was meant. Celtes 
(Schardius, Basil ed., p. 59) makes Iceland " one of the isles of 
the ocean," together with Scandia, Dania, Suecia, etc. Adelung 
(Mithridates) supports the claims of Norway. Others go as far as 
Lapland, and even Greenland has not been without claimants to 
the honour. Yet in the sixth century, Jornandes (De Origine 
Actuque Getarum Liber, p. 393, Basle edition of 1531), after men- 
tioning the thirty-four Orcades, says, " Habet et in ultimo plagse 
occidentalis aliam insulam nomine Thyle, de qua Mantuanus, 
Italia, ' tibi serviat ultima Thyle,' " and he carefully distinguishes 
it from the " anipla insula nomine Scanzia."^ 



It has been shown that the accounts of Pytheas, supported by 
details from Pliny and Ptolemy, refer only to Iceland. They 
are confirmed by the following authorities. In Caius Julius 
Solinus (a.d. 230 ; 2 vols, fol., Traj. ad Ehenum, 1689), we find 
Thule five days' sail from Orkney, and we cannot allow less than 
100 knots for the Spofxos vvxOrjfj-epos, or a total of 500 direct geo- 
graphical miles; the run from northern Orkney to the south 

1 "Scana," in Adam Bremensis ; generally " Scandia, " and popularly derived 
from "Schon " and " aue." According to Cleasby, the Icel. " Sk^ney" is said to 
mean "borderland," and perhaps derived from " sk^n," a thin border, surface, etc. 


coast of Iceland being about this distance. The Polyhistor, held 
an oracle in the Middle Ages, adds (chap, xx., Ill) : 

" Inter multas quee circa Britanniam sunt insulas, Thylen ultimam esse com- 
memorat. In qua sestivo solstitio dicit esse noctem nullam. Brumali vero 
perinde diem nullum."^ 

Orosius, whose history (London, 8vo, 1773) extends to a.d. 
417, says : 

"Tylen per infinitum k caeteris separatam undique terris in medio sitam oceano 
vix paucis notam liaberi. " 

Isidorus Hispalensis (a.d. 600-636 ; Orig. Sen Etym., xiv. 6 ; 
Opera Omnia, foL, Parisiis, 1601) appears to repeat Pliny : 

"Thyle vero ultimam oceani insulam inter Septentrionem et occidentalem 
plagam,^ ultra Britanniam sitam esse describit, a sole nomen habentem, quia in eS, 
sestivum solstitium sol faciat, et nullus ultra eam dies sit. Ultra Thylen vero 
pigrum et concretum mare." 

The last sentence of the bishop being emphatically true in 
winter. Other authorities who identify Thule with Iceland, are 
Cluverius (Germ. Ant., ii. 39), Harduin and Dalechamp (Ad 
Plin.), Bougainville (c. 1., p. 152), Hill (Ad Dionys.), Penzel (Ad 
Strab.), Pontanus (Chorog. Dan. Descrip., p. 74), Isaac Thilo (Dis- 
sert., Lips., A.D. 1660), Gerhard Mercator, and Mannert (Geog., i., 
p. 78), to mention no others. Martin (Histoire des Gaules, i. 
159) takes the Gauls to Iceland. 

^ The whole account of Solinus is interesting enough for detailed quotation : as 
regards Thyle being two days distant from Caledonia, and five from the Orkneys; 
the numerals are supposed to be clerical errors: "Multse et alise Britanniam 
insulse, e quibus Thyle ultima, in qua sestivo solstitio sole de Cancri sidere 
faciente transitum nox psene nulla : brumali solstitio dies ades conductus, ut 
ortus junctus sit occasui. A Caledonise promontorio Thylen petentibus bidui 
navagatione perfecta excipiunt Hebridse insulee, quinque numero, quarum incolae 
nesciunt fruges, piscibus tantum et lacte vivunt. Rex unus est universis : nam 
quotquot sunt, omnes angusta interluvie dividuntur. Rex nihil suum habet, 
omnia universorum: ad sequitatem certis legibus stringitur ; ac ne avaritia divertat 
a vero, discit paupertate justitiam, utpote cui nihil sit rei familiaris : verum alitur 
e publico. Nulla illi datur femina propria, sed per vicissitudines, in quamcunque 
commotus fuerit, usurarium sumit. Unde ei nee votum, nee spes conceditur 
liberorum. Secundam a continenti stationem Orcades praebent : sed Orcades ab 
Hebudibus porro sunt septem dierum, totidemque noctium cursu, numero tres. 
Vacant liomine ; non habent silvas, tantum junceis herbis inhorrescunt. Cetera 
earum undse arense. Ab Orcadibus Thylen usque quinque dierum ac noctium 
navigatio est. Sed Thyle larga et diutina pomona copiosa est. Qui illic habitant, 
principio veris inter pecudes, pabulis vivunt, delude lacte. In hiemem compas- 
cunt arborum fructus. Utuntur feminis vulgo ; certum matrimonium nulli. 
Ultra Thylen pigrum et concretum mare." 

2 Both Ausionius (Idyl. 12) and Statins (loc. cit.) make Thule to be " Hes- 
peria," i.e., west of Britain. On the other hand, the Geographer of Ravenna (Pre 
Guido ? V. 31) places his Thule east of Britain. 


In the ninth century we have positive evidence that Thule 
had returned to its oldest signification, Iceland. The monk 
Dicuilus, who wrote in the year 825/ relates that thirty years 
before that date (a.d. 795) he had seen and spoken with several 
religious who had inhabited the island of Thule between February 
and August. He asserts that Iceland and the Tseroes had been 
discovered by his countrymen; and his calculation of the seasons 
and the days at different times of the year, together with the 
assertion that a day's sail thence towards the north would bring 
them to the Frozen Sea, shows that " Iceland, and Iceland alone, 
could have been the island visited by the anchorites." 

The Domesday Book of the north, the " Landnamabok," whose 
lists of 1400 places and 3000 persons were drawn up by various 
authors in the twelfth century, supported, according to Mr 
Blackwell (note, p. 189), "by other ancient Icelandic documents," 
simply states (Prologus, p. 2), " Before Iceland was settled by the 
Northmen there were men there called by the Northmen Papae. 
These men were Christians, and are thought to have come from 
the west, for there were found Irish books, bells (bioUur), staves 
(baglar), and various other things, whence it is thought that 
they were Westmen," Irishmen — a name still preserved in the 
Vestmannaeyjar archipelago. Moreover, we learn that these 
relics were found in Papey (the Isle of the Papse), a rock off the 
eastern coast, which still bears the same name, and at Papyli, in 
the interior ; and finally, that " the Christians left the country 
when the Northmen settled there " ^ — the latter being pragma- 
tical pagans. 

Mr BlackweU concludes that these people were probably 
fishermen from the north of Ireland and the Western Isles of 
Scotland, who may annually have frequented the northern seas, 
and made Papey one of their winter stations. Mr Dasent (i., vii.) 

1 Another authority was Ari FroSi (Ara Multiscius), one of the writers of the 
Landnamabok, who also tells us (c. 2, p. 10, in Schedis de IslandiA, Oxonise, 
1716, 8vo) that these "hermits" chose not to live with the heathen, and for 
that reason went away, leaving behind their books, bells, and staves. 

2 M. Mallet's Northern Antiquities (Bohn, 1859), p. 189, note by the editor, 
Mr J. A. Blackwell. Mr_G. W. Dasent (The Story of Burnt Njal, Edin., Edmon- 
stone & Douglas, vi., viii.) quotes Dicuili Liber de Mensur^ Orbis Terrae, Ed. 
Valckenaer, Paris, 1807; and Maurer, Beitrage zur Kechtsgeschichte des german- 
ischen Nordens, i. 35. 


more justly identifies them with tlie Papar or Culdees (?), a class 
of churchmen who have left their traces in almost every one 
of the outlying islands of the west. Under the name of " Papar " 
we find them in the Orkneys and Shetlands, the Faeroes and 
Iceland; "and to this day the term ' Papey' in all these localities 
denotes the fact that the same pious monks who had followed 
St Columba ^ to lona, and who had filled the cells at Enhallow 
and Egilsha and Papa, in the Orkneys, were those who, accord- 
ing to the account of Dicuil, had sought Thule or Iceland that 
they might pray to God in peace." ^ These Culdees were 

^ Or Columbanus (nat. circ. a.d. 559) ; lie was born about forty years later tlian 
St Columbkill. 

2 The word " Culdee" is used by Dasent. It was reserved for a sub-learned and 
ultra-disputatious Icelander, Mr Eirikr Magnusson, to assert at the Anthropolo- 
gical Institute (ISTovember 19, 1872), that Culdee is a "general term for men of 
religious and monastic living, and that the epithet is derived from ' Cultores 
Dei.' The singular is simply the Erse ' Ceile De,' or ' servant of God.'" 

The following exhaustive note upon the Culdees was kindly forwarded to me by 
Dr Eichard S. Charnock : 

"The Culdees anciently had establishments not only in Scotland and Ireland, but also 
in England and Wales. They were numerous in Scotland, and continued there from 
the ninth century to the Eeformation. Chalmers (Caledonia) says the Culdees of 
Scotland are not mentioned in history till about the beginning of the ninth century 
(circ. A.D. 800-815), and their first establishment was at Dunk eld, under the bishop of 
that see. They were afterwards (circ. a.d. 850) placed at St Andrews, where they 
had their chief establishment for many centuries ; and it is stated by Buchanan 
that Constantine III., king of Scotland, who died in a.d. 943, spent the last five years 
of his life in religious retirement amongst the Culdees of that city. Chalmers states 
that before the introduction of the canons regular of St Andrews (twelfth century), 
the Culdees alone acted as secular canons in cathedrals, and as dean and chapter 
in the election of bishops ; and that thenceforth both orders were joined in the 
right until a.d. 1272, when it was usurped by canons regular. He also says that 
the Culdees of Brechin continued for many ages to act as dean and chapter of that 
diocese, and according to Jamieson (History of the Culdees) the Culdees of St Andrews 
elected the bishop of that see down to the election of William Wishart (1270), when 
the power was abrogated ; but in those early times it appears that the bishops in many 
sees in Scotland were of the order of Culdees. In G. Cambrensis mention is made 
of Culdees in the island of Bardsey, off the Welsh coast. The annotator of the Annals 
of the Four Masters (a.d. 1479) says, 'By the Latin writers they were called Colidsei, 
Culdei, Kelidei, and sometimes Deicolse.' The Colidei or Culdees are mentioned by 
various other ancient writers, and by several Scotch historians, as monks in Scotland 
as early as the fourth and fifth centuries. But the statements of John of Fordan, 
Hector Boethius, and others, are entirely contradicted by the learned Lanigan. Smith 
(Life of St Columbkill) and Jamieson (History) have maintained that they were Col- 
umbian monks, or members of that order instituted by St Columbkill at lona, in 
the Hebrides, and also in various parts of Scotland ; and they have represented these 
Culdees as a very strict and religious order in those early times, from the sixth to the 
twelfth century. But Lanigan shows that these statements are erroneous, and that the 
Culdees were not mentioned by the Venerable Bede or any other ancient ecclesiastical 
writer as Columbian monks, nor in the works of Usher or Ware, nor in the five lives 
of Columbkill published by Colgan. Lanigan considers that the Culdees were first 
instituted in Ireland in the eighth or ninth century ; and Aongus, surnamed Ceile De, 
a celebrated ecclesiastical writer of the eighth century, author of Lives of Irish Saints, 
etc., is supposed to have been a Culdee. They are mentioned in the Annals of the 
Four Masters and of Ulster (a.d. 920), in which it is recorded that Godfrey, king of the 


not likely to spread, as they carried na women, but they left 
traces of their occupation in their cells and church furniture. 

The simple story told by Dicuil is eminently suggestive. 
Thus Thule became, probably for a second time, one of the 
" Britannise," the Isles of Britain ; and we may consider the 
discovery a rediscovery, like the central African lakes, whence 
Ptolemy derived the Nile. When the rude barks of the eighth 
century could habitually ply between Ireland and Iceland, we 
cannot reject as unfit the Eoman galleys, or even the Phcenico- 
Carthaginian fleets. The Periplus of Himilco was not more peril- 
ous than the Periplus of Hanno, and the Portuguese frequented 
the northern seas long before they had doubled Cape Horn. Berg- 

Danes of Dublin, plundered Armagh, but lie spared the churches and Colidfei. It appears 
from Lanigau and other authorities that the Culdees were not, strictly speaking, monks, 
neither were they members of the parochial clergy, but were a description of secular 
priests called 'secular canons,' and attached to cathedrals or collegiate churches termed 
prebendaries ; and although bound by rules peculiar to themselves, they belonged to 
the secular clergy, and are to be distinguished from the canons regular, or communities 
of monks, who sprang up at a much later period, and officiated in the chapters of 
cathedral churches. The Culdees also sang in the choir, lived in community, and had 
a superior called ' Prior of the Culdees,' who acted as precentor or chief chanter. The 
principal institution of the Culdees was at Armagh, and, according to Usher and others, 
there were Culdees in all the chief churches of Ulster ; and some of them continued at 
Armagh down to the middle of the seventeenth century. The Culdees had priories and 
lands in various parts of Ireland, particularly at Devenish Island, in Fermanagh, 
and at Clones, in Monaghan, both in the diocese of Clogher ; also at Ardbraccan in 
Meath : and G. Cambrensis gives an account of the Colidsei who lived on an island in a 
lake in North Munster, which island was called by the Irish Inis na mheo, or the 
' Island of the Living' (or of cattle ?), from a tradition that no person ever died on it ; 
it was afterwards called Mona Incha, and was situated about three miles from Roscrea, 
in the bog of Monela, in Tipperary. In the time of G. Cambrensis this island was a 
celebrated place of pilgrimage; and their residence was afterwards removed to Corbally, a 
place near the lake, where the Culdees became canons regular of St Augustine. Though 
the Irish Culdees were generally clergymen, yet some pious unmarried laymen joined 
their communities. There were also Culdees in Britain, particularly in the North of 
England, in the city of York, where they had a great establishment called the Hospital 
of St Leonard, and were secular canons of St Peter's Cathedral, as mentioned in 
Dugdale's Mouasticon ; and got some grants of lands in a.d. 936, during the reign of 
Athelstan, and continued at York at least down to the time of Pope Adrian IV., who 
confirmed them in their possessions. We also read in the 'Annals,' under A.D. 1479, 
that Pearce, son of Nicholas O'Flanagan, who was a canon of the chapter of Clogher, a 
parson, and a prior of the Ceile De, a sacristan of Devenish, and an official of Locli Erne 
(vicar-general of Clogher), a man distinguished for his benevolence, piety, great hospi- 
tality, and humanity, died after having gained the victory over the world and the 
devil. It would appear by the Annals of the Four Masters that Culdees were found in 
Ireland in a. d. 1601 : ' O'Donnell having received intelligence that the English had come to 
that place (Boyle), was greatly grieved at the profanation of the monastery, and that 
the English should occupy and inhabit it in the place of the Mic Beathaidh (monks) 
and Culdees, whose rightful residence it was till then, and it was not becoming him not 
to go to relieve them if he possibly could.' At the Reformation, a little later, out of 
563 monasteries in Ireland mentioned by Ware, and also in Archdale's Monasticon, it 
would appear that there was one belonging to the Culdees, viz., the Priorj^ of Culdees 
at Armagh. See also Dr Jamieson's History of the Culdees, 4to, Edin. ; Maccatheus's 
History of the Culdees, 12mo, Edin. 1855 ; and Keith's Catalogue of Scottish Bishops, 
new edition." 


mann had evidently no right to determine that Iceland was not 
" Ultima Thule/' because — (1.) The Eomans were bad sailors ; (2.) 
They were in the habit of writing "Eome — her mark" wher- 
ever they went, whereas no signs of their occupation are visible 
in Iceland; and (3.) Because Iceland was probably raised from the 
sea at the time when the Vesuvian eruption buried Herculaneum 
and Pompeii. 

It is true that Eoman remains have not yet been discovered 
in Iceland, but this is a negative proof which time may 
demolish ; moreover, the same absence of traces characterises 
the Papar occupation which we know to have been a fact. On 
the other hand, Uno Von Troil speaks of a ruined castle near 
"Videdal" (ViSidalr), some 200 perches in circumference, and 
smaller features of the same kind on the glebe of SkeggestaS, 
near Langanes. Mr Henderson^ declares of Hrutur's cave, or 
rather caves — a vast apartment 72 feet long by 24 broad and 12 
high, within which is a small recess 15 feet by 9, apparently a 
sleeping place — that both " are said to have been cut by people 
in former times." 

We are, then, justified in concluding that we need no longer 
question with Synesius, if such a place as Thule exists, or doubt 
with Giraldus Cambrensis, whether it has yet been discovered. 
We may follow A. W. Wilhelm (Germanien, etc., 1823), and 
believe with the Teatro Grande Orteliano, " Islandia insula, 
veteribus Thyle dicta, miraculis si quae alia clarissima." We may 
agree with Mannert that Iceland might have been discovered 
by Pytheas the Phocsean, and even by the Carthaginians. We 
may even support what appears to be rather an extreme opinion : 

"Pytheam praeter^ increpat Strabo ut mendacem, qui Hiberniain et Uxisamam 
(Ushant) ad occidentem ponit k Gallia, cum hfBC omnia, ait, ad Septentrionem 
vergant. Itaque veteres geographi Hibernise situm definiunt melius quam 
scriptoris seculi aurei Augusti, Himilco et Phoenices melius quam Graeci vel 
Komani" (Rer. Script. Hib., prol. i., xii.). 

Moreover, it appears certain that the old tradition of Thule, 
though different ages applied the word differently, was never 

1 Vol. i., chap. 8. This traveller did not visit the cave, but quotes from 
Olafsson and Pallsson, p. 927. 


completely lost; and that the Irish rediscovered the island 
before the eighth century, if not much earlier, when the official 
rediscovery dates from the ninth, and the earliest documents 
from the eleventh and twelfth. 

The Venerable Bede (eighth century) speaks of Iceland under 
the name of Thyle, more than a hundred years before its official 
discovery by the Scandinavians ; and Alfred (ninth century), in 
his translation of Orosius (p. 31), assures us that the utmost 
land to the north-west of Ireland was called Thila, and that it 
was known to few on account of its great distance. Yet even 
after the occupation of Iceland by the ]!^orthmen, we find in the 
literary world the same vagueness which prevailed in earlier 
ages. For instance, Isaac Tzetzes (twelfth century), in his notes 
on Lycophron, calls the fabled Fortunate Islands of the Greeks 
" the Isle of Souls, a British island between the west of Britain 
and Thule towards the east," which is impossible. But in the 
fifteenth century Petrarch has left us a valuable notice of the 
knowledge then familiar to men of letters (De Situ Insulse 
Thules, epist. i., lib. iii., De Eebus Fam., vol i., pp. 136-141, 
ed. 1869, J. Fracassetti, Le Monnier. Florentia). In reply 
to his own " Qusero quianam mundi parte Thule sit insula?" 
he quotes Virgil, Seneca, Boethius, Solinus, Isidore, Orosius, 
Claudian, Pliny, and Mela. He could obtain no information 
from " Pdccardo, quondam Anglorum regis cancellario " — 
Eichard de Bury was probably too busy for such trifles. He 
learned something, however, from the " Libellus de Mirabilibus 
Hibernise, a Giraldo (Cambrensi) quodam aulico Henrici 
secundi, regis Anglorum." And after quoting this " scriptorum 
cohors," he thus ends with " pointing a moral " — " Lateat ad 
aquilonem Thyle, lateat ad austrum Nili caput, modo non 
lateat in medio consistens virtus," etc.^ 

Icelandic Thule was advocated by Saxo Grammaticus ; but his 
opinion was strongly opposed by his commentator (Johannis 

1 This interesting letter was brought to the author's notice by Dr Attilio 
Hortis, Director of the Bibliotheca Civica, Trieste. This young and ardent 
scholar has published for the centenary festival of Petrarch (June 1874), certain 
political documents hitherto unprinted ; they prove Petrarch to have been, like 
almost all the great Italian poets, a far-seeing statesman in theory if not in 


Stephanii, Notse Uberiores in Hist. Dan. Sax. Gram. Sorae, ed. 1644, 
foL). The words of the latter's preface are — " Ex opinione magis 
vulgari, quam rei veritate Thylenses ubique nominat Saxo, qui 
Islandi rectius dicerentur ;" but he relies chiefly upon the contro- 
vertible arguments of " Arngrimus Jonas." Iceland was opposed 
by Gaspar Peucerus (De Terrse Dim.), by Crantzius (Praefatio 
in Norvagiam, borrowed from Mcolaus Synesius, epist. 148) ; by 
Abraham Ortelius (TheatrumOrbis andThesaurumGeographicum), 
and by Philippus Cluverus (Germania Antiqua). The globe of 
Martin Behaim (a.d. 1430-1506) shows a certain knowledge of 
details : " In Iceland fair men are found who are Christians. 
The custom of its inhabitants is to sell dogs at a very high rate ; 
while they willingly part with some of their children to merchants 
for nothing, that they may have sufficient to support the remainder. 
Item. — In Iceland are found men eighty years old who have 
never tasted bread. In this country no corn grows, and in lieu 
of bread dried fish is eaten. In Iceland it is the stock fish is 
taken which is brought to our country." 


Perhaps the origin of " Thule " is ground more debatable and 
debated than even its geographical position. 

**Some," says Sibbald, "derive the name Thule from the Arabic word Tule 
( \^ = Tul), which signifies ' afar off,' and, as it were with allusion to this, 
the poets usually call it ' Ultima Thule ;' but I rather prefer the reason of the 
name given by the learned Bochartus,^ who makes it to be Phoenician, and affirms 
that it signifies 'darkness' in that language. Thule (^^) in the Tyrian 
tongue was * a shadow, ' whence it is commonly used to signify ' darkness, ' and 
the island Thule is as much as to say, an * island of darkness ;' which name how 
exactly it agrees to the island so called at the utmost point to the north is known 
to everybody. " 

Others find Thule in the Carthaginian ^^ = "obscurity;" the 
Hebrew has ^^^^ ^^^ ^^^ Arabic ^ = " obscuravit." 

^ Bochart (in Chanaan, i. 40), quoting Diogenes and Dercyllides of Tyre, whose 
tables, according to Photius (loc. cit.), were dug up by order of Alexander the 
Great, explains Thule to mean in Phoenician "tenebrarum insula." But this 
etymology reminds us of the Semitic origin applied to Britain, 


After using or abusing the Semitic tongues, we come to 
Greek, which puts forth three principal claimants : 06Xo<s = fuscus 
color, caligo ; reAos, a goal; and r-qXe, procul. Meanwhile Isido- 
rus (Orig. Sen Etym., lib. xiv., 6) derives Thyle, as has been 
shown, from the sun and its solstice. In the twelfth ceotury, 
Suidas (Lex. sub voc.) makes Thulis (QovXl<s) a king who reigned 
over Egypt and the isles of the ocean, one of which was called 
after his name. 

Etymologists presently applied themselves to the Gothic 
languages and their derivatives ; and they did not reject geogra- 
phical resemblances. Pontanus (loc. cit., i., p. 746) asserts that 
the islands about the Norwegian coast were generally called 
Thuyle. Ortelius (Thesaur. and Theatr. Orbis, p. 103), relying 
upon Ptolemy's latitudes and longitudes, declares that " Thilir " 
was the term applied to the people of Norwegian " Tilemark ;" 
the latter word is also written " Thulemarchia " (Johannes 
Gothus); " Thielemark," ^'Thylemark" and "Tellemarck" (Pon- 
tanus).^ Not a few writers refer "Thule," as has been said, to 
"Thy" or "Thy-land," the extreme point of Jutland. The 
commentator on Saxo Grammaticus, before referred to, records a 
derivation of " Thule :" 

"Quod vel instar TJioH, cujusdam orbis terrarum sit imposita, vel quod eo 
navigantes ad ploratum (totliiilen Belgse dicunt) proficiscerentur. " 

In p. 175 he becomes still more vague : 

" Rectius itaque Velljus nostro, juxt4 ac M. Christiernus Petri, primus Saxonis 
interpres, reddidere Blend afF Tell0e vel Blend aff Tyl0e. Qusenam vero iste 
sint insulse, juxta scimus cum ignarissimis. " ^ 

Prsetorius (De Orbi Goth., iii. 4, § 3) deduces "Thule" from the 

^ The I eel. is Thilir, men of Thela-mork, mark of the Thilir, the Norwegian 
country now called Thilemarken. 

^ Dr Charnock remarks that "Thule" is the name of a river in Glamorgan- 
shire, of a place in Silesia, and a town in Westphalia; also that "Southern 
Thule " was a title given to a part of Sandwich Island, the southernmost region 
discovered by Captain Cook in January 1775. Lt. Wilford's Pandit invented a 
Pushkara Dwipa under the Arctic circle, corresponding with modern Iceland. 
Camden (Britannia) warns us, not unnecessarily, against confounding the "insula 
in nltimis et extremis Borealis Oceani secessibus longe sub Arctico Polo," with 
the Indian " Tylis " or " Tylos" (Bahrayn ?), of which St Augustine (lib. xxi. 5, 
De Civit. Dei) says, " Tylen Indise insulam eo preferri cseteris terris, quod 
omnis arbor quse in ea gignitur nunquam nudatur tegmine foliorum," doubtless 
alluding to the palm. Strabo, we believe, does not mention "Tylos;" Pliny 
refers to it in three places (Nat. Hist, vi. 32, and xii. 21 and 22). 

VOL. I. C 


Gothic "Tiel," "Teule," or "Tuole" (= re A09, finis), meaning a 
long distance, and denoting the remotest land; he doubts the 
existence of the place, with D'Anville (Mem. de Paris, vol. 
xxxvii., p. 439). Reinerus Reineccius (Reinech, Historise tam 
Sacrse qnam Profanae Cognitio, Frankf. et Lipsiae, 1685, and 
Methodus Legendi, etc.. Historian! tam Sacram quam Profanam, 
Frankf. 1670) advocates the Saxon " Tell," meaning a limit — 
limes septentrionis atque occidentis. Dr Charnock compares 
the Saxon " Deel," a part or portion, and quotes Wachter (Gloss. 
Germ.), who gives amongst other meanings of " Teil " (hod. 
Theil), pars, portio, segmentum, and "teilen," i.e., dividere in 

Torfseus (Hist. ISTorwegise, i. 5, p. 12) proposes a variety of 
derivations. Wilhelm Obermiiller (Worterbuch, etc., Williams 
and JSTorgate, Lond. 1872) would explain " Thule Procopiana," 
by Dal (a dale), or "Tulla," also written "Tolin" and "Tullin," 
a meadow or pasturage ; and he remarks that Norwegian " Telle- 
mark " or " Thilemark," is of the same descent. The Thracian 
Kelts had a kingdom of Tyle, which here probably signified 
" Dail," a fortress. When Pliny makes men sail from Nerigos to 
" Thule," the latter might have meant Du-ile, " the little island," 
or perhaps " the dark (' dubh,' cloudy and wintry) isle." 

Even the orthography of " Thule " is disputed, and there are 
sundry variants — Thula, Thyle, Thile, Thila, Tyle, and Tila. 
The popular Greek form adopted by Strabo, Ptolemy, Agathe- 
merus, Isidorus, Jornandes (De Reb. Get., cap. 1, 1), Procopius (De 
Bell. Goth., ii. 15) and Stephanus Byzantinus, is QovXt], which in 
Romaic would be pronounced " Thule ;" the ethnic being QovXaios 
(Thulseus), and QovXirrjs (plur. QovXiTai). The Latins (Mela, 
Pliny, Tacitus, Anonymus Ravennse, Martianus, Solinus, etc.) 
seem to have preferred "Thule;" and Cluverius (Germ. Ant., 
iii. 39) rejects all others as barbarous. The learned and humorous 
Salmasius (in Solin., cap. xxii.) declares that " Thyle " ought 
never to be written, despite many good codices of Virgil, Pliny, 
Jornandes, Isidore, the Anon. Ravennse, and others, which give 
Thyle and even Tyle, QvXrj and QvXlttjs ; ^thicus (in Cosmog., 
p. 730), borrowing from Orosius, has "Tilae;" Boethius (xx. 11), 
"Tile" and "Dyle." 


We here conclude the subject of Thule, " celebrata omnium 
litteris insula." To do it full justice, and especially to quote 
from the " cohort " of modern writers, would require a volume. 


§ 1. Genesis and Geology. 

"Iceland owns its existence wholly to submarine volcanic agency" 
— such is the statement generally made by travellers and accepted 
by readers. The genesis of tliis " Eealm of Frost and Fire ;" this 
" fragment of earth white with snow, black with lava, and yellow 
with brimstone ;" this " strange trachytic island, resting on an 
ocean of fire in the lone North Sea," where the " primary powers 
of nature are ever at war with one another," is compared with 
the efforts, vastly magnified, which in 1811 threw up from the 
waters Azorean Sabrina to a height of 480 feet above sea-level. 
And many have assumed as its exemplar the three-coned Nyoe 
(Nyey) that rose during the Skaptar eruption (1783), some thirty 
miles south-west of Eeykjanes, and sank into a subaqueous 
reef before the end of the same year.^ 

This is true, but not the whole truth. The basis of Ice- 
land was recognised by Baron Sartorius Von Waltershausen 
to be the Palagonite^ which forms the foundation of volcanic 
tufas on Etna, the Azores, Tenerife, the Cape Verds, and other 

^ To wliich nay be added, neglecting the "Automata" of classical and 
mediseval times (Pliny, i, 89 ; Ruspe, cle Novis Insulis, etc.), Arons Island 
(1628); Sorea of the Moluccas (1693); the offsets of Santorin (1707); Stromoe 
(1783); Graham Island, near Sicily, which, in 1831, was thrown up to a height 
of 750 feet, and the three outliers of Santorin (1866). These little worlds enable 
us to study Earth in the art of parturition. 

2 From Palagonia in Sicily, where it was first described (1838) by that savant 
(see pp. 222-483, and 802, Dana's System of Mineralogy, Triibner, London, 1871). 
The specific gravity is 2 '43, and the fracture mostly conchoidal. The dis- 
tinguished chemist, Professor Bunsen (Sect, ix., § 1), who, succeeding in producing 
artificial Palagonite, gives it iron, either magnetic or peroxide, and "some 
alkali," a vague term : Dr W. Lauder Lindsay adds minor constituents, felspar, 


Plutonic regions. It is known to the people as " M6-berg/' the 
saxum terrestre-arenosum of Eggert Olafsson, translated by the 
dictionaries Clay-soil, but generally used in contradistinction to 
Stu(5laberg/ hard stone, the basalts, basaltites, dolerites, and 
others of their kind. By the older travellers, as Henderson, it 
is termed sandstone, and conglomerat-'basaltique, while not a few 
have confounded it with trachyte. In Iceland this mineral sub- 
stance, rather than mineral, is a far more important feature than 
even in Sicily. 

By virtue of its composite character and different colour, this 
hydrosilicate of alumina is a Proteus ; massive and amorphous ; 
crystalline, muddy, sandy, and ashy ; friable, porous, and spongy 
like lava and pumice ; granular, silicious, and arenaceous ; heavy 
and compact like slatey clays ; vitreous and semi- vitreous with 
the lustre of pitch-stone. It is as various in tint as in texture ; 
usually ferruginous brown, dark brown or dun yellow ; grey and 
slate-coloured ; dark with hornblendic particles ; pure white 
where it is converted into gypsum, clay marl, and limonite 
with the aspect of chalk, by exposure to the action of sulphurous 
acid ; green tinged with olivine ; garnetic-red ; ochreous, the 
effect of iron; and at times showing a ferreous coat of pavo- 
nine lustre. Palagonite lava is often " of so deep a brick-red 
colour that it resembles an iron slag, were it not for its superior 

Here, this Palagonite degrades to the yellow sand which 
contrasts so remarkably with the black Plutonian shore ; there, 
in the lowlands it shows fissile strata horizontal hke sand- 

augite (hornblende), jasper, olivine, obsidian, hornstone, chalcedony, and zeolite. 
Professor Tyndall (Royal Institution, June 3, 1853) offers the following table : 


(not found by Dr Murray Thomson). 

In 1872, only a single and a very poor specimen of this highly interesting rock 
had found its way to the museum in Jermyn Street. 

1 From Stu'Sill, anything that steadies, a stud, prop, stay. A specific usage 
makes StuSlar signify pentagonal basalt columns, and Stu?51a-berg is a basaltic 
dyke (Cleasby). It is popularly opposed to M6-berg, " a kind of tufa," properly 
Palagonite, from Mor, a moor or peat-fuel. 


. 25-50 

Lime, . 

. 20-25 


. 11-39 






stone, and at times marly couches. It paves the soles of val- 
leys and the floors of rivers; and it rises on the surface of 
the loftiest HeiSar (highland heaths), where earth is worn down 
to the very bone by rains, snows, and winds. Now it towers 
in huge cliffs and scaurs, irregular masses of rock overlying 
or underlying the traps; then it bulges into high belts of 
country, sierras and detached mountains, like HerSubreiS and 
others which will afterwards be mentioned. Consolidated and 
in places crystallised by heat and high pressure, this produce of 
submarine volcanoes was elevated by the long continued action 
of quietly working forces, but it still displays its subaqueous 
origin. Firstly, it is a hydrate containing 17 to 25 per cent, of 
water ; secondly, it is stratified as if formed of hardened ashes 
and modified lavas ; and, thirdly, it contains broken mollusks^ 
of marine types still existing, and the silicious skeletons of 
infusoria : a negative proof is that we never meet with it among 
volcanic tuffs subaerially deposited. In places it becomes an 
acute-angled breccia, enclosing basalts and lavas varying from 
the size of a pin's head to that of a man, or rounded conglomer- 
ates suggesting that the foreign matter was deposited in a 
shallow sea. The fresh appearance of the shells and the 
presence of infusoria also tend to prove that it was deposited 
in a heated, at least not in a gelid sea. 

Professor Tyndall finds in Palagonite the first stage of the 
fumarole : " If a piece be heated with an excess of aqueous sul- 
phuric acid, it dissolves in the cold to a fluid, coloured yellow- 
brown by the presence of peroxide of iron. On heating the 
fluid, the peroxide is converted into protoxide ; a portion of its 
oxygen goes to the sulphurous acid, forming sulphuric acid, 
which combines with the basis of the rock and holds them in 
solution." But the resultant springs show no trace of oxide of 

^ About ninety species of mollusk shells and the hard parts of echinoderms and 
crustacese have been found in the Palagonite of Sicilian Aci Castello. Lime, for 
the use of the shell-builders, enters into the composition of such tuffs generally, 
and the percentage depends upon the percentage of shells. Silica is extracted 
from it by carbonic acid and sulphuretted hydrogen ; and this mineral again 
depends upon the included quantity of infusorial skeletons. Professor Quekett, 
Dr Gulliver, and other authorities, have examined specimens of Icelandic Pala- 
gonite, in which they could not detect infusoria nor their skeletons, even after 
boiling in nitric acid. 


iron which has been dissolved and has disappeared. " The very- 
rock from which it was originally extracted, possesses the power 
of re-precipitating it, when by further contact with the rock, the 
solution which contains it has its excess of acid absorbed, and 
has thus become neutral. In this way, the aqueous sulphurous 
acid acts as carrier to the iron, taking up its burden here, and 
laying it down there; and this process of transference can be 
clearly traced to the rocks themselves." 

Upon this Palagonite floor, the " Protogsea," or oldest formation, 
were laid immense tracts of sand and stratified ejections of " trap." 
According to Macculloch, "the word is a cloak for ignorance which 
saves the trouble of investigation." But it is still a general term 
for the older, lighter, less earthly and basic, and more crystalline 
forms than the basalts, containing intercalated pumice-tuffs 
deficient in shells, whilst the cavities abound in zeolites and 
amygdaloids.^ Concerning the strike and dip of the trap-strata, 
which rise sheer from the sea, in grades and layers, steep, 
angular, and bare, and which outline the mural copings and 
stepped cones of the old coast and the jaws of the river-gorges, 
there are many conflicting opinions. Some hold that the strata 
all incline gradually and quaquaversally, more or less, towards 
the centre of the island ; whilst others find that as a rule, they 
are horizontal. The expedition led by Prince Napoleon (1857) 
recognised convergence, and often a slope of 15° towards the 
grand foci of eruption that form the respective systems; for 
instance, the inclinaison rayonnante towards SnsefellsjokuU. The 
author could lay down no rule, except that the steps, viewed 
in profile, especially from the gashes and torrent-beds, appear to 
recede rather than to project, to dip inland rather than seawards. 
The strata vary in number to a maximum of fifty; they are 
perpendicular courses separated by debris, and sometimes footed 
by deblai and humus, disposed at the natural angle — this regu- 
larity again suggests submarine deposition, and everywhere 
attracts the stranger's eye. 

Professor Bunsen divides the rocks of Iceland, and probably 
those of most other volcanic systems, into two great groups : (1.) 

^ The word "trap " will be used in these pages to denote the lavas ejected by 
submarine volcanoes. 


Normal Pyroxenic, the basalts and dolerites, whence silica is 
almost absent; and (2.) Normal Trachytic, abounding in that 
mineral. The basalts^ are of two kinds, the true, rich in, 
and the basaltite, which notably wants, olivine. Both are 
either honey-combed with drusic cavities, or perfectly compact 
and fine-grained ; the water-rolled pieces are soft, and smooth as 
marble. The basalts pass by almost imperceptible degrees into 
dolerites (green-stones) coloured by admixture of chlorite, and 
often containing iron pyrites. Of less importance as a geological 
feature, are the masses, veins, and crests of trachyte which pierce 
the Palagonites, the traps, and the basalts. The rock which is 
compared with the chain of the Puys (Auvergne), occurs, however, 
in an altered form at many places unsuspected by old travellers, 
and every explorer adds to its importance. From Eeykjavik 
appear two gold-yellow and white-streaked peaks, associated 
with jasper and other forms of quartz. The Snsefellsjokull 
peninsula is also for the most part trachytic. The celebrated 
Baula (the cow), a cone rising 3000 feet high, contrasts the 
mechanic neatness of its whitey-grey pillars^ with its red neigh- 
bour. Little Baula, and with the surrounding chaos of darkness ; 
and heat-altered trachytes are found about Hekla and the Geysir. 
The green trachyte of ViSey, apparently tinted by chlorite, was 
found to contain silica, alumina, iron, and traces of magnesia. 
Daubeny, and a host of writers, assumed that a trachytic band, 
disposed upon a rectilinear fissure 200 kilometres long, bisects 
the island from south-west (Eeykjanes) to north-east (Langanes), 
and represents the original Iceland, as the Longmynd and Stiper 
Stones are the nucleus of England. Moreover, the great centres 
of eruption, igneous and aqueous, were disposed upon this 

^ Until late years the general opinion was that all basalts are of igneous formation. 
The contrary has been supported by Mr H. P. Malet (Geogr, Mag., August 1874), 
to mention no others : he finds in that of Rossberg and the " Rowley Rag" vege- 
table, animal, and earthy particles which, passed through the fire, would have 
vanished in vapour. The distinction, therefore, between basalt and basaltic lava 
becomes fundamental. Granite, again, is by the same writer taken from Hutton. 
and returned to Werner. The author could not but observe, when travelling in 
the basaltic Hauran, in that Bashan which, according to some, gave a name to 
the mineral, that the dried mud split under the sun into lozenges and pentagonal 
flakes (Unexplored Syria, i. 215), Upon this subject more will be said in 
Chapter XJV. 

2 Forchhammer considered this trachyte an unknown variety of felspar, and 
called it Baulite. 


diagonal, flanked by the earlier Plutonic masses. Lastly, the 
modern volcanic chimneys were all theoretically opened in 
the old and new trachytic domes. M. Eobert (1835) especially 
sought and failed to find the " trachytic band," and, since Von 
Waltershausen's visit, it has been determined that the material 
is the Palagonite floor traversed by the Geysir and by most of 
the active volcanoes. 

The peculiar contrasts of the island are thus noticed by an old 
writer : " The king of Denmark is still master of Iceland, which 
is supposed to be the Ultima Thule of the ancients. The surface, 
though it is covered with snow, nevertheless contains burning 
mountains, whence issue fire and flames, to which the Iceland 
poets compare the breasts of their mistresses. It has also smok- 
ing lakes, which turn everything thrown into them to stone, and 
many other wonders which render this island famous." Iceland, 
like Tenerife, owes its present general contour to subaerial vol- 
canic action of the post-Tertiary period, the secular growth of the 
detached regions overlying the pockets and foci of eruption, as 
explained by Yon Buch, together with the gradual accretion, the 
gift of exit-chimneys and dejections from the Plutonic cauldrons. 
The normal pyroxenic was followed by the felspathic formations, 
trachytic, acid and pumiceous, which, though comparatively 
modern, still date from immense antiquity. The distribution 
into fire-vents (true volcanoes) and sand-vents (pseudo- volcanoes), 
will be noticed in a future page. 

The lava is composed of trachytic (silicious) and doleritic (basic) 
ejections, varying in weight;^ the stone averages about half the 
specific gravity of granite, and in a molten state it flows at the 
rate of 50 to 100 yards per diem. When first cooled, the ejections 
are lamp-black ; they are then tarnished by oxygen to brown ; 
they become grey with lichens ; and finally, the lapse of ages con- 
verts them into humus. To the latter process, Brydone, on Etna, 
assigned 14,000 years, and greatly scandalised our grandsires, 
who held sound opinions upon the date (B.C. 4004) empirically 
assigned to creation. We can hardly forget poor Cowper's poor 
verse, and poorer sense : 

^ See Chapter XI. 


* * Some drill and bore 
The solid earth, and from the strata there, 
Extract a register, by which we learn 
That He who made it, and revealed (!) its date 
To Moses, was mistaken in its age." ^ 

The following is a list of the principal orographic features, 
Jokulls,^ Fells (mountains), volcanoes, masses of Palagonite, snow- 
peaks, and true glaciers, which are rare. Gunnlaugsson's astro- 
nomical positions are given in Danish feet, and the former are 
reduced to the meridian of Greenwich by assuming Copenhagen 
to lie east 12° 34' (Eafn, 12° 34'-7). The Danish foot is cal- 
culated at 12-356 inches English, or about 67: 69. 

The north-eastern quarter numbers fifteen points, ranging from 
1000 to 3000 Danish feet, and the following ten exceed the 
latter : 

Dan. feet:: 

=Eng. feet 

N. lat. 

W. long. (C.) = 

: Greenwic 




64° 58' 28" 

26° 39' 19" 

14° 5' 




65° 10' 39" 

28° 58' 55" 

16° 25' 




65° 13' 35" 

26° 53' 42" 

14° 20' 




65° 27' 37" 

26° 42' 2" 

14° 8' 

Dyrfjoll, . . 



65° 31' 20" 

26° 35' 17" 

14° 1' 


. 3859 


65° 36' 40" 

27° 24' 6" 

14° 50' 




65° 48' 26" 

31° 31' 56" 

18° 58' 




65° 52' 45" 

31° 7' 33" 

18° 33' 

Olafsf j arSarfj all, 



65° 58' 34" 

31° 31' 8" 

18° 57' 




66° 0'24" 

30° 48' 58" 

18° 15' 

In the south-eastern quarter, nine heights range from 1000 to 
3000 Danish feet, and eleven rise higher, viz. : 

Dan. feet=Eng. feet. N. lat. W. long. (C.) = Greenwich. 

St6rhof?Ji, . . 4509 4643 63° 55' 34" 29° 17' 7" 16° 43' 

Sta?Jarfjall, . . 3782 3894 63° 57' 55" 29° 12' 51" 16° 39' 

Orsefajokull,^ . . 6241 6426 64° 0' 48" 20° 20' 16" 16° 46' 

Thverartindsegg, . 3668 3776 64° 11' 14" 28° 46' 12" 16° 12' 

^ The date ** revealed to Moses" has long delayed the progress of science, and 
the 6000 years or so, still linger in the orthodox brains. The Hindus and the 
Moslems were far wiser, or rather better informed ; the latter provide for the 
countless Mons of the past by the theory of Pre-Adamite kings and races. 

■^ The Jokull (jjlur. Joklar) is explained passim. Suffice it here to say, that 
it is a mass of eternal ice formed by the enormous pressure of the superincum- 
bent snow ; it is not correct, but it is decidedly convenient to render it by 
"glacier. " The Fell (our "fell, " pronounced Fedl or Feil) is a single block or peak, 
and in the plural, a range or sierra ; it is mostly free from snow during the sum- 
mer heats. Fjall {Fyadl, and ^^Zwr. Fjoll) is the generic term "mons" and 
Kar e^oxw ', it is applied in Icelandic literature to the Alps. 

•^ Here is the culminating point of the island, usually assumed at 6500 English 
feet, more than one-third higher than Yesuvius (4000 feet). 


Dan. feet= 

=Eng. feet. 

N. lat. 

W. long. (C.) = 

- Greenwich. 


. 4300 


64° 14' 54" 

28° 34' 1" 

16° 0' 


. 3316 


64° 20' 60" 

28° 50' 22" 

15° 47' 

Afrettartindr, . 

. 3842 


64° 31' 4" 

27° 33' 54" 

15° 0' 

Btilandstindr, . 

. 3388 


64° 41' 54" 

27° 3' 4" 

14° 31' 

Snffifell,! . 

. 5808 


64° 48' 1" 

28° 11' 43" 

15° 38' 


. 3499 


64° 51' 18" 

27° 1-1' 16" 

14° 47' 


. 3459 


64° 58' 28" 

26° 39' 19" 

14° 5' 

In the north-eastern quarter, twenty points range from 1000 
to 3000 Danish feet, and only three rise higher, viz. : 

Dan. feet= 

=Eng. feet. 

N. lat. 

W. long. (C.) = 

= Greenwich 


. 3476 


66° 8' 14" 

31° 37' 4" 

19° 4' 

Hvammsfell, . 

. 3785 


65° 39' 18" 

31° 48' 21" 

19° 14' 


. 3476 


65° 23' 30" 

31° 59' 10" 

19' 25' 

In the south-western quarter, thirteen points range from 1000 
to 3000 Danish feet, and again only three rise higher, viz. : 

Dan. feet=Eng. feet. N. lat. W. long. (C.) = Greenwich. 

Snsefellsjokull, . . 4577 4713 64° 48' 4" 36° 25' 8" 23° 51' 

Hekla,2 . . . 4961 5108 63° 59' 2" 32° 19 2" 19° 45' 

Eyjafjallajokull,3 . 5432 5593 63° 37' 2" 32° 16' 18" 19° 42' 

From these tables we see that the north-eastern and south-eastern 
quarters contain not only the greatest number of heights, respec- 
tively twenty-five and twenty, exceeding 1000 Danish feet, but 
also the apex of Iceland. The north-western, though generally 
a high level, has only three master peaks, and the traveller's eye 
soon determines the south-western to be the lowest of all. It 
may here be remarked that the islanders have names for the 
mountains, peaks, and even blocks, as well as for the valleys, 
whereas the Arabs, as a rule, name only their wadys. 
Upon the points above named, 

"Nix jacet et jactam nee sol pluviseque resolvunt 
Indurat Boreas, perpetuamque facit." 

The snow-line above the tableland (1500 to 2000 feet) varies 
according to position and formation of ground from 2000 to 3500 * 
feet over sea-level. The mean has been laid down at 2830 feet. 

1 Usually assumed at 6000 English feet. 

^ Generally exaggerated to 5700 English feet. 

^ Popularly reckoned at 5900 English feet. 

* This is about the forest limit of Scandinavia (2500 feet). The spruce fir first 
disappears, the Scotch fir rises a few hundred feet higher, and the highest is the 
birch, common and dwarf {Betula alba and nana). 


Iceland, as far as it is known, contains few true glaciers. 
The best known of the SkriSjoklar, glaciers mouvants, the 
" vacillating jokuls " of Henderson (i., pp. 237, 265), protruded 
by the thrust from behind and above, are the southern offshoots 
of the great Klofajokull. Two have been often described — the 
Skei(5ararjokull and the BreiSamerkrjokuU. Concerning these 
ice masses, which are confined, as far as is known, to the southern 
and the south-eastern shores, and which slope gently to the sea, 
it is generally believed in Iceland that the congealed tracts are 
diminishing. Professor Tyndall observed the same in the Mer 
de Glace, and Mr Freshfield on the Caucasus, where the excess 
of consumption over supply threatens to make the " gietchers " 
mere spectres of their former selves. 

We now approach the modern formations, the volcanic tracts 
which overlie the plateaux of Palagonite, trap, and trachyte, and 
the valleys of elevation and erosion which cleave their masses. 
As usual throughout the world, the fire- vents are confined to the 
neighbourhood of the sea and lakes : the centre of Iceland is the 
Sprengisandur (bursting sand),^ a black " Euba' el Khali." In 
many places the trap terraces have become a wall, over which 
great gushes of modern lavas have poured down towards the 
ocean — stone models of the waters which stream down the 
valleys, and which spring in cataracts from step to step. 

Again, it is asserted, with premature generalisation, that the 
volcanic vents trend, as a rule, from north-east to south-west — 
a corollary of the " trachytic-band " theorem. The principal 
systems, which are the following, do not bear out this disposition, 
and it is probably true only of the south-western part of the 
island, which was first examined by travellers. Beginning from 
the north-west, we have the following list of eight great systems. 

1. The Dranga^-Glamu system in the great palmated projec- 
tion, the former lying north-east of the latter. 

1 Sprengisandur; from **sprengja," to burst, to split (in an active sense) ; **a8 
sprengja best," to burst a horse, to ride it till it bursts. This is the reason of the 
name : the Sprengisandur has so few halting places, that there is a danger of 
working the horse to death before coming to a station. It is generally and 
erroneously translated "springing," i.e., wind-blown, sands. The Ruba' el Khali 
("empty fourth," or quarter) is the gi'eat Arabian Desert. 

2 Drangr, = a lonely, upstanding rock ; in popular lore, rocks thought to be 
giants turned into stones. 


2. The Leirhnukr, Krafla, and HeiSarfjall, near tlie My-vatn 
Lake. They anastomose, by the OdaSa-hraun, with the Vatna- 
jokuU and the Skaptar — the direction being north to south. 

3. Tlie Snsefellsjokull (Western JokuU) runs distinctly from 
west to east, ending at the sea-shore. 

4. The Hofsjokull, including the i^rnarfells branch to the east, 
and the BlagnypujokuU to the south-west. Occupying the 
centre of the island, it approaches the TtingnafellsjokuU, an out- 
lier of the YatnajokuU system to the south-east ; and westward, 
it almost touches the north-eastern extremity of the long Eey- 
kjanes line. 

5. The Hekla system, which the old theory of fissures con- 
nected with Etna. It lies on a parallel, a Palagonite ridge about 
2000 feet high, extending from west to east through the Torfa- 
jokuU, to the banks of the Skapta. 

6. The YatnajokuU, whose apex is Oraefa, the whole measuring 
some 330 miles in circumference, and occupying an area of 3000 
to 4000 square geographical miles: stretches upon a parallel, and 
is connected by a meridian of lava- run with 'No. 2. 

7. The Katla, or Kbtlu-gja system, again, is not linear, but 
disposed in a group at the southern extremity of Iceland. The 
principal items are the Myrdals, Eyjafjalla, Merkr, GoSalands, 
and Tindfjalla JokuUs. This great mass is generally known as 
the Eastern JokuU, opposed to the Western or Snsefells. 

8. The Eeykjanes system is apparently the only diagonal 
which extends from the Fire Islands north-eastwards to Skjald- 
breiS, and to the snow mountains, whose northernmost point is 
EyriksjokuU. Its items are the Lang, the Ball, the Blafells, the 
Geitlands, and the Ok. 

Mr Keith Johnston, sen., and other authorities, give the fol- 
lowing list of volcanic eruptions which have occurred during the 
present century.^ 

^ The total number of recorded eruptions between a.d. 894 and 1862 is given by 
Baring-Gould, Introduction, xxi.-xxiii. There have been eighty-six from twenty- 
seven (reckoned in round numbers to be thirty) different spots, and the intervals of 
repose have varied in Hekla from six to seventy -six years ; in Kotlu-gja from six 
to three hundred and eleven. Such is the statement generally made. The fact 
is, however, that the exact number of the eruptions is not known, as the annals 
are more or less confused. The number of volcanic foci in Iceland is popu- 
larly and roughly laid down at twenty, and of these three are called active — 


1. Aust-Jokull (an indefinite term for the great Eyjafjalla 
system), in December 1820 to June 1822, and January to June 

2. Myrdals JokuU (or rather Kotlu-gja) in 1823, from 26th 
June, covered about a hundred square miles with sand and ashes. 

3. SkeiSar JokuU began to erupt February 13, 1827, and did 
considerable damage. No record of this outbreak is to be found. 

4. The submarine eruption off Cape Reykjanes took place in 

5. Hekla, in September 2, 1845 (-46), broke out the twenty-sixth 
time, according to popular writers, throwing up ashes, which fell 
in the Orkneys, and which gave the first intelligence of the event. 

6. Kotlu-gja again was slightly active, vomiting ashes and 
water in May 1860, its thirteenth eruption. 

7. It has been generally assumed that on March 23, 1861, the 
Oraefajokull broke its long rest, and the smoke is said to have 
tarnished silver at the distance of fifty miles. But Mr Jon A. 
Hjaltalin, who was in Iceland during that year, denies having 
heard of any convulsion, nor was it mentioned by the island 
papers. He adds, " What is spoken of in Metcalfe's book was 
a ' Jokul-hlaup.' " 

An ash-eruption from TroUadyngjur is recorded in 1862, but 
accounts of it greatly vary. Mr Keith Johnston chronicles nine 
eruptions extending through nearly five centuries and a half — 
namely, the submarine volcano in the middle of BreiSi FjorS 
(A.D. 1345), TroUadyngjur (1510), Her5ubrei5 (1716-17), "Krabla" 
(1724-25), Leirhnukr (1730), Si5u JokuU (1753), OrsefajokuU 
(1755), HnappafellsjokuU (1772), and SkaptarjokuU (1783). 
And he further informs us that two great groups are active 
— Leirhnukr, " Krabla," TroUadyngjur, and HerSubreiS, ^ — all 
nearly on a parallel of latitude to the north-east ; and Hekla, 

Hekla, Katla or Kotlu-gja, and the Vatnajokull volcano. It is a large propor- 
tion out of the total assigned to the world ; the latter varies between the extremes 
of 167 and 300, showing the uncertainty of our present knowledge. Popular 
books speak of 2000 eruptions per century, or an average of twenty per annum. 

1 Smoke also appeared in the sea off Reykjanes, and pumice was thrown upon 
the shore during February 1834. This phenomenon was followed by an earth- 
quake at Reykjavik, August 15-20, 1835. 

2 The formation of these four items will be explained in a subsequent page ; 
they are very improperly massed together. 


Aust JokuU, Myrdals, and Orsefa, placed in a right-angled 
triangle to the south. 

Concerning the imvisited volcano in the snows of the Vatna- 
jokull, all procurable details will be found in the Journal. The 
author was surprised to find that not one of the known centres 
was in a state of activity, although every preconceived idea sug- 
gested that the summer of 1872 would be one of unusual pertur- 
bation.^ Two days before the outbreak of Vesuvius (January 1, 
1872), shocks began in the north-east of Iceland. On the after- 

1 The year after the author's departure witnessed an eruption of the Skaptar- 
jokull, in the north-west corner of the Vatnajokull, but it lasted only four to five 
days. The following account appeared in the papers ; nothing more has subse- 
quently been learned about it. But how can this outbreak "witness against 
Captain Burton's assertion in the London Standard" — the same assertion which 
is here repeated in the text, and which was made in 1872 ? 

" An Icelandic gentleman has kindly forwarded to us the following account of 
the eruption of the Skaptarjokull (announced by telegraph from Lerwick yester- 
day), as witnessed by him from Keykjavik, about 100 miles distant: 

** * Reykjavik, March 23, 1873. 

*' *0n Thursday, the 9th of January, about three o'clock a.m., we observed 
from Reykjavik a grand fire in east-north-east direction, and all agreed that it was 
''some neighbouring farm burning," with haystacks. The fire shot up like 
lightning, displaying beautiful evolutions in combination with the electricity 
above. Indeed, it was exactly like a fine display of rockets and wheels, and so 
bright was it, that during the dark morning hours we all thought it must be very 
close to Reykjavik. But when daylight dawned, and we could discern the moun- 
tains, we observed a thick and heavy column of vapour or steam far in the back- 
ground, beyond all mountains visible, so it was clear that it was far off, and, 
according to the direction, it seemed most likely to be in Skaptarjokull, the west 
part of Vatnajokull — the great waste of glaciers in the east and south of the island. 
Morning and night this grand display was visible during the 9th, 10th, 11th, arid 
12th, and during the day the column of steam and smoke stood high in the sky. 

' ' ' When similar news came from east, north, and west, all came to the same 
conclusion, that it must be in Skaptarjokull — witnessing against Captain Burton's 
assertion in the London Standard — and according to the difi"erent points of obser- 
vation, and the statement of our newspaper at Reykjavik, the position of the 
crater ought to be between 64° 7' and 64° 18' north lat, and 30° 45' and 30° 55' 
west long, from the meridian of Copenhagen. 

*' *In the east, near Berufjor?5, as stated in the northern paper, some shocks 
were felt, and fire was seen from many farms. Ashes, too, had fallen over the 
north-east coast, so that pasture fields were covered so far that the farmers had to 
take their slieej) into the huts and feed them. But the paper says : "In tlie 
south no earthquakes were felt, or noises heard in the earth, far or near, as far as 
Markarfljot (near Eyjafjallajokull). Nowhere has been observed any fall of 
ashes or dust, but all aver a bad smell was felt, and also here in Reykjavik in the 
forenoon of the 10th. The people of Landeyjar (opposite Westmann Islands) 
assert the same to have been the case there on the first day of the eruption, but 
here, at Reykjavik, it was not observed that day, but we felt the air very close, 
particularly on the 9th, from three to five o'clock in the afternoon, with some 
smell of sulphur and powder, very like the smell from a lately discharged gunbarrel. " 

" ' No change was observed in the sun, moon, etc. The sky was clear all these 
days. The direction of the wind was from N.W. — "W-S-W., and the weather 
fine. At Landeyjum the wind had been E.N.E. on the 10th, with a strong breeze, 


noons of 16tli and 17th April, Hiisavik, a small comptoir to the 
east of Skjalfandi Flj6t, suffered severely, as will appear in a 
future page. This immediately followed the fearful cyclone at 
Zanzibar (April 15), a phenomenon unknown in former times, 
which destroyed part of the town, and which sank most of the 
foreign and native craft,^ doing damage estimated at £2,000,000. 
The earthquake at Husavik also took place only thirteen days 
after the earthquake at Antioch (morning of April 3), which 
shook down two-thirds of the houses, and killed nearly one-third 
of the people. Moreover, shocks were reported at Accra on the 
Gold Coast, a town which had been almost destroyed some ten 
years before.^ Followed (May 1) by the cyclone at Madras, 
which breached the pier, severely injured the city and suburbs, 
and wrecked eleven merchantmen, drowning many of the crew. 
Lastly came the report that the unseen crater in the untrodden 
snows of the Vatnajokull, whose smoke was first seen in August 
1867, had again begun to " vomit flames." 

Meanwhile the eruptions of Vesuvius continued till April 26, 
when a new crater built a hill in the Atrio del Cavallo, where 
only a fissure before appeared. Professor Palmieri, who stuck 
staunchly and gallantly to his observatory on the banks of the 
new Styx, reported that the mountain was sweating fire at every 
pore, and that after the showers of ashes and red-hot stones, and 
the discharges of lava and " boiling smoke," storms not less 
dangerous had begun to rage. These meteors, as a rule, occasion 
great floods, which, sweeping down the ashes and rapilli that 
cover the slopes, complete the ruins of the lands spared by the 
lava. During this eruption, a report was spread that the crater 
of Vesuvius had become an electric pile ; that strong currents, 

and the column of steam got very high, and mist hid all the eastern horizon, but 
no fall of ashes took place. 

" ' This eruption lasted only four or five days, and is not likely to have done 
any damage to inhabited parts or pasture grounds, except in so far as the fall of 
ashes might hurt the sheep. 

' ' ' The weather has been very changeable during the whole winter, but very 
little snow has fallen in the southern part of the country. The cod -fishing has 
been very favourable when the boats have been able to go out. During the 
stormy weather some fishermen were lost. On the 1st of March we had a very 
heavy fall of snow, but since then the weather has been mild but rather stormy.' " 

^ It was reported that there were a hundred wrecks, the "Abydos" alone being 
able to ride out the storm. 

2 I have given an account of this event in ** Ocean Highways," February 1874. 


generated by the violent ejections of the crater, showed them- 
selves in lightnings, flashing with a dry and hissing sound from 
the great trunk of smoke and ashes ; and, finally, that an earth- 
quake might at any moment shake Naples to its foundation. 
This abnormal electricity may explain the meteorological pecu- 
liarities of the spring of 1872, even in England, where May 
behaved itself with the leonine violence of March. The great 
Pacific earthquake (August 1867) and the tremendous and 
unusual storm which simultaneously visited the eastern coast of 
South America, to quote no other instances, showed that, whilst 
similar effects usually are of limited extent upon solid ground, 
they stretch to great distances at sea, and they may influence 
the atmosphere in the furthest regions of the world. Though 
we may accept only as provisional the geological theory which 
places volcanoes upon fissures or solutions of continuity in the 
earth's surface,^ we must remember that on October 17, 1755, a 
fortnight before the earthquake which shook down Lisbon, the 
Kotlu-gja fissure began the terrible eruptions that lasted for a 
year : at the same time the waters of Loch Ness were agitated ; 
the British Isles were rocked by repeated oscillations, and shocks 
extended to Asia and to America. Again, in 1783, the Upper 
Calabrian earthquake (February 5 and 7, and March 28) was 
closely followed by the fearful phenomena of the SkaptarjokulL^ 
Thus Nature appeared to have made in the summer of 1872 
every possible arrangement for a grand pyrotechnic display ; yet 
the author can positively assert that during the w^hole of his 
stay in Iceland not one of the twenty-seven to thirty great vents 
showed a symptom of activity. Indeed, only one was ever re- 
ported to be in existence, and that one has never been visited. 

^ The late Professor Forbes was the first to show that Iceland, the Faeroes, the 
Hebrides, Ireland, and Iberia, are connected by a "continous tract of land, rang- 
ing from the Azores along the line of that belt of gulf- weed which exists between 
N. lat. 15° and 45°." 

2 This eruption is reported to have discharged a mass of lava greater in bulk 
than Mount Etna. According to Henderson (i. 274-289, who borrows from the 
account of Chief-Justice Stephensen), it destroyed 9336 human beings, 28,000 
horses, 11,461 head of cattle, and 190,488 sheep. This mortality resulted either 
directly from tlie ejection of molten lava and stone showers, debacles and aqueous 
lavas ; or from pestilence, the effect of sulphureous and other noxious vapours ; or 
from famine, the fish leaving the coast, and the pasturage being destroyed by 
erupted sand and ashes. 


Professor Bunsen has shown that active volcanoes whose 
temperature is high, discharge sulphurous acid, whilst the dor- 
mant give forth sulphuretted hydrogen ; hence the irregular and 
simultaneous appearance of these two gases which play a most 
important part in Iceland. " Let a piece of one of the igneous 
rocks be heated to redness, and permit the vapour of sulphur to 
pass over it. The oxide of iron is decomposed ; a portion of 
sulphur unites with the iron which remains as sulphuret ; 
the liberated oxygen unites with the remaining sulphur, and 
forms sulphurous acid. Let the temperature of the heated mass 
sink just below a red heat, and then let the vapour of water be 
passed over it : a decomposition of the sulphuret before formed 
is the consequence; the iron is reoxydised, and the liberated 
sulphur unites with the free hydrogen to form sulphuretted 
hydrogen. Thus the presence of two of the most important 
agents in volcanic phenomena is accounted for. These are ex- 
perimental facts capable of being repeated in the laboratory, and 
the chronological order of the gases thus produced is exactly the 
same as that observed in nature." 

The most remarkable features of the island, after the volcanic, 
are the FjorSs,^ or firths proper, conducting streams and admitting 
the sea ; opposed to Viks and Vagrs, bights and bays, mere in- 
dentations of the coast. Though of igneous origin, they are 
compared with the granitic features of Norway, where a volcano 
is unknown, and yet where the shape becomes that of an arete, 
a fish's dorsal bone with regular ribs on both sides : this flat 
snow-capped ridge is " the keel " of the maritime population. 
The popular theory (Students' Manual of Geology, Jukes and 
Geikie, Blacks, Edin. 1872) is that the FjorSs are glens once 
submerged, raised above water, and hollowed out by glaciers 
and by the various influences which come under the name of 
" weather." Glacial action is, we must own, distinctly traced in 
most parts of the island. But in many places, BerufjorS for 
instance, there is no room at the head of the dwarf amphitheatre 
for a glacier of any magnitude. As in the Fseroe archipelago, 
these ravines are the rents and fissures which divided and 

1 FjorSr, xilur. FirSir. 


fractured the first upheaval ; and in Iceland they were bound 
together by the action of earthquakes and eruptions, ice and 
snow, wind and rain. The greater gorges are found chiefly on 
three sides of the island. The south-western shore, like that of 
Ireland, is digitated by gales, currents, and Greenland ice, and 
it abounds in " tTt-ver," ^ the narrow-necked peninsulas of Nor- 
way. The SiSa, or sea-" side " to the south-east, is a long, narrow 
strip of habitable land between the mountains and the waters : 
here the FjorSs were obliterated by the combined action of the 
Jokulls. Under the name " FjorSs " are also included immense 
bays, as the Faxa FjorS, sixty-five miles across ; the BreiSi Fjor3, 
forty-five miles wide ; and the Hunafloi, into which the Arctic 
Sea sends its unbroken swell, running forty-six miles deep and 
twenty-seven in diameter. The western features are, as a rule, 
broad, with shallow sag : here, according to some,^ was deposited 
the Surtarbrand^ or lignite, and, like the driftwood of Kerguelen 
Island, it escaped incineration by subsequent eruptions from 
causes analogous to the operation of charcoal burning. The 
northern firths are long and deeply indented, and the eastern are 
sharp and narrow, encased in walls of Palagonite, trap, and basalt. 

The archipelagoes and solitary islands outlying Iceland are 
invariably small ; and in places, as will be seen, the " stacks " and 
" drongs " form a " skerry-guard," almost a false coast. 

Concerning a common feature of the interior, the Gja (pron. 
Geeoio, or like ow in fowl), rent, chasm, or fissure, details will be 
given in the course of the Journal. Here it may be mentioned 
that it perfectly resembles the " Ka'ah " of the Leja and the 
Hauran, and the Lava Fields in the Far West of North America, 
which lately sheltered the " Indians," and gave so much trouble 
to the Federal troops. 

The surface of Iceland, where free from snow, and over which 
men travel, may be reduced to four general formations. 

1. Loose, volcanic ashey sand, grey above and black below ; 
often mixed with pulverised Palagonite; barred with white lines 

^ Ut-ver in Icel. is an outlying place for fishing, etc. ; hardly corresponding 
with the continental "udver." 
2 See Journal, chap. 5. 
^ Surtr, i.e., the Black, an Eddie name of a fire-giant. 


of salt and potash, and either erupted suhaerially or formed 
under water, as the rolled stones and pebbles show. This 
feature is found best developed in the central and the north- 
eastern parts of the island ; the Sprengisandur and the Stori- 
sandur (Sahara or Great Sands) being the great examples. The 
hills and terraces are utterly barren, because they will not hold 
water: the lower levels, fed by percolation, bear the normal 
growth, and especially the wild oat. 

2. Stone ; chiefly Palagonite, trap, basalts, trachyte, lavas, and 
obsidians, the Mavpa Xiddpta of the modern Greeks. It is, how- 
ever, far safer travelling than the polished limestone of the 
Libanus, and an hour's ride over calcareous Kasrawan is more 
troublesome than a day in Iceland. Its greatest inconveni- 
ence is perhaps the sun : during a clear day it becomes, in Ice- 
landic phrase, ''hot enough to make a raven gape." A fair 
specimen of the stone-country may be found between Eeykjavik 
and Krisuvik. 

3. Clay and humus, the former generally disposed in horizontal 
strata, the latter deposited by decayed vegetation upon the surface. 
These formations, the Geest-lands of Denmark, mostly extend 
round the hill feet, dividing them from the deeper levels of bog. 
They form essentially " rotten " ground ; drilled with holes by 
frost, rain, and sun, and cut by gullies of all sizes, a plexus of 
wrinkles or gashes and earth-cracks, radiating from the highlands 
to the lowlands. When the path becomes a hollow way, sunk 
too deep for riding, rut-tracks straggle, as in the Brazil, over wide 
spaces and, after the vernal thaws, the traveller will find the 
" corduroys " of America and the " glue-pots " of Australia ; " 
whilst in places scattered stones are so many traps for careless 
horses. Yet these clays and humus are the best paths and, after 
the sands, give the fairest chance of a gallop. 

4. Bog in Iceland clothes the hill-sides, as well as the bottoms 
and the " flats," that is, any low alluvial land : it is easily dis- 
covered from afar by the dull-red tint of iron-rust and the snow- 
white spangles of cotton-grass. There are two forms of profile: 
one lumpy, tussocky, and what one traveller calls " hassocky," 
like the graves of a deserted churchyard ; the other a plane, the 
swamp pure and simple; often flooded after rains, and in the 


dries provided with two or three veins, into which animals 
plunge, struggle, and fall. These channels change so frequently 
that none but local guides are of "use, and often the best path 
leads to the place which has lately become the worst. Instinct 
and experience do something, but not much, for man and beast : 
both naturally prefer running water to stagnant, and when the 
foremost is bogged, the followers seek a better place either higher 
up or lower down. On frequented lines the impassable places 
are provided with " Brtir," dykes or causeways of peat or stone, 
traversed by rude arches and flanked by shallow ditch-drains. 

The HeiSi, or high divide separating two river-valleys, is a 
" dry-land wave " (Kv/xa xepa-alov), varying from 1500 to 2000 
and even 3000 feet in altitude. These ridges, especially during 
the mist and fog, snow and hail, wind and rain, are the horror of 
native travellers, and few venture upon the passage in foul 
weather. The profile is a harsh caricature of our Scotch and 
Irish moors and mosses, bogs and swamps, combining all the 
troubles of sand, stone, clay, and slush ; whilst the marshes and 
drains are most troublesome to cross. " Carlines," or old women 
(VorSur and Kerlingar),^ are built in places where transit must 
be made at all seasons ; but they are often useless, as the streams 
shift their bottoms, and permanent paths cannot be traced on 
what is neither water nor good dry land. At the beginning and 
end of the travelling season, SB.o\y-fonds and veins, based upon 
compressed ice, streak the slopes and dot the hollows, whilst 
natural arches and bridges, under which savage torrents gnash and 
foam, must be crossed on horseback. Concerning the behaviour 
of the snow, details will be found in the course of the Journal. 

Eoads are made in Iceland, like those of Syria, by taking off, 
not as in Europe by putting on, stones. In the more civilised 
parts of the island they are represented by horse-paths, which 
are occasionally repaired, and by sheep-paths, which are left to 
themselves : they humbly suggest the " buffalo " track of the 
prairie, and the elephant tunnel of the African forest. Not a 
few show worse engineering and tracery than those of olden 
Austria; hence we find upon the map such pleasant titles as 

^ Englishmen would call them " old men." 


Hof(5a-brekka^ (head-brink or slope), Halsavegr (neck-or-nothing 
way), lUaklif (evil cliff), and Ofsera or tJfaera, UfserS (the untra- 
vellable) — the latter often applied to short cuts over the sea- 
sands where the wayfarer is exposed to a cannonade from the 

§ 2. Hydrography. 

The hydrography of Iceland has several peculiarities. A 
glance at the map shows that the Sprengisandur is the keystone 
of the flattened arch, which, averaging 2000 feet in altitude, 
forms the centre of the island. From this point the main lines 
diverge quaquaversally, except to the south-east, where the huge 
white oval, denoting the Vatnajokull,bars the way, and forms a 
drainage-system of its own. Hence none of the streams are 
navigable above the mouth, and their magnitude, as well as the 
dimensions of their basins, are out of all normal proportion to 
the area of the island. The four head rivers — Hvita,^ Thjorsa, 
Jokulsa (western), and Skjalfjandifljot (shivering or waving 
flood) — range from 100 to 160 miles in length. The Thjorsa is 
150 miles long, and falls 2000 feet in twenty leagues, carrying 
more water than the Hudson of New York. " White River " is 
a common local name, the effect of glacier detrition giving the 
milky aspect familiar to every traveller in Switzerland, and 
hence, probably, the muddy White Mle, as opposed to the clear 
Blue Eiver. A more unusual feature is the Fiili-lsekr (foul or 
stinking stream) ; the iron pyrites, where the stones are ground 
to powder, part with their sulphur, and the latter, uniting with 
the hydrogen, accounts for the unsavoury name. The Jokul- 
hlaup, or " Snow-mountain leap," is the sudden debacle and 
exundation which spring from the congealed masses, often with 
the irresistible might and the swift destruction of the true 

1 Henderson (i. 127) translates " Hofdabrecka " by "Breakneck." Halsavegr 
is from "hals," Scottice " halse." 

^ A (fern.) at the end of a word means a water, as Temsa = Thames River: 
so the German Don-au is the Iceland D6n4, the Danube. The root may be traced 

through the Sanskrit Ap, the Persian ,_,) and the Latin Aqua to almost aU 

families of European speech. Uncomposed, the Icelandic " Vatn " means water 
or lake. 


The streams in the south-eastern corner are the shortest and 
the most perilous, rising full grown from the glaciers, and 
sweeping down fragments and miniature floes of ice. Henderson 
is the first English traveller who forded and described the 
SkeitJara and the network called the Gnupsvbtn. We may here 
acquit him of excessive exaggeration : the natives of the eastern 
coast, when travelling to Eeykjavik, prefer the immense round 
by the north to the short cut along the southern shore ; and 
when asked the reason, they invariably allege the dangers of the 
snow-drains. In the course of the Journal we shall cross two of 
the four head streams, and observe a water-power amply sufli- 
cient for the wants of a first-rate European people. The prin- 
cipal cataracts are the Oxara, the Selj aland Eoss, the GoSa 
Eoss, and the Dretti Eoss, first visited by Baring-Gould. All 
have been described by travellers, and the highest is the Hengi 
Eoss which we shall pass on the road. 

Of the lakes (Votn), we shall inspect the two largest, the 
Thingvalla-vatn ^ and the My-vatn; and we shall sight a 
multitude of tarns and ponds, single and grouped. One 
peculiarity is noticed in many of the minor waters. In Iceland 
it is emphatically untrue that lakes without drains are salt or 
briny — a rule apparently applicable only to the temperate and 
tropical zones. Whether the phenomenon in the north arises 
from subterranean drainage through the fissures of the bed, or if 
it be due to absence of saline matter in the area of drainage, 
which is often modern lava too hard to be sensibly degraded, we 
have no means of determining : perhaps there is a union of both 

A remarkable feature is the abundance of warm water laid 
on by the hand of Nature; the map shows upwards of two 
hundred; and here perhaps the hottest springs of the Old 
World are found. Suffice it to say at present that they are 
divided into two main groups. The acidulous and acid-silica, 
which redden litmus-paper, depositing gypsum and sulphur, do not 

^ In old vellums spelt invariably Vatz, Yaz, or Vazt, and Vass is the modern 
pronunciation. Only in two instances not dating earlier than the twelfth century, 
we find Vatr, with the r common to all Teutonic peoples, and showing its con- 
nection with Wasser and Water (Cleasby). 


erupt : these are the " 01-keldur " (ale springs) mentioned in the 
"Eoyal Mirror" of the twelfth century, and they are still locally 
and popularly distributed into three species. Some, like " mar- 
tial " waters, inebriate from the abundance of carbonic acid gas ; 
others when allowed to stand, part with their stimulating pro- 
perty; and others again when filled in rise elsewhere. The 
second class is the alkaline-silica, which restores the colour of 
litmus paper; it is often explosive, and it contains chiefly 
sodium and silica. In the valley of the Yellowstone Eiver the 
springs are either (1.) Calcareous (alkaline), depositing carbonate 
of lime with sulphates of magnesia and soda, chloride of calcium, 
and a little silica; or (2.) Silicious (acid), containing 85 : 100 
silica, chloride of magnesium, and only a trace of lime. 

The Gey sir (gusher)^ is a spouting spring; the Eeykirs (reekers) 
give forth steam ; the Laug is a warm fountain which may serve 
as a bath; the Nama^ (hole of hot water) is sulphurous and gaseous; 
the Hverr (cauldron), like its smaller congener the Ketill (kettle), 
is a tranquil, hot, and even boiling well or pool, it is also applied 
to mud springs ; and the Makkaluber (the Italian " Salsa," or 
" Hofetta," and the American " Mud-puff") is a miniature volcano 
of hissing, boiling bolus. Further details concerning the names 
and natures of these features will be given in the Journal. 

§ 3. Climate. 

The " cold of Iceland " is as proverbial as the " deserts of 
central Africa," and both sayings are equally based upon unfacts. 
" Iceland, where the cold and winter are perpetual, and the cold 
scarce to be endured," is what we read. But those who travel 
in the island find — (1.) that even in winter the temperature is 
rarely severe; (2.) that there are two distinct climates, on the 
north coast and in the southern country ; and (3.) that the air, 
however unpleasant, is exceptionally wholesome. 

1. The isotherms by no means follow the circles of latitude. 

^ Paijkull tivanslates the word "to ascend violently. " It is derived from aS 
gjosa, to gnsli. Max Miiller (Science of Language, Longmans, 1862) derives it from 
the root which gives ghost, geist, gust, yeast, gas, etc. 

^ The dictionary gives only Nama or Nami, a mine or pit, for this word of 
general use. 


The cold lines swerve away from, instead of passing through, 
Iceland, and show none of that severity which characterises 
Greenland and the northern parts of British America. As has 
long ago been observed,^ the isotherm of F. 32°, the freezing point 
of water, which is that of Akureyri, varies 14° between southern 
Asiatic Eussia (IST. lat. 56°) and northern Norway (N. lat. 70°). 

The mildness of the insular climate, and that of the easterly 
winds, which are too clear to come from warmer waters, are 
popularly attributed to the " great Gulf Stream." This sea-river, 
we are told, " sweeping up from the south, brings with it a store 
of heat to bless the islanders, and so materially affects the 
island that in the south of Iceland the winter is not more severe 
than in Denmark." The Gulf Stream is generally supposed to 
strike the south-western angle, and to flow along the southern 
shores ; while others make it bifurcate off Eeykjanes, hence one 
part subtends the north-western point or Land's End of Iceland, 
where it meets the Polar and Arctic current, the other half 
embraces the southern shore, and both meet in the north Atlantic 
arm separating Iceland from Norway. Dufferin's map shows 
the popular belief : the true Florida current, sweeping past the 
southern shore of Iceland, forks about Spitzbergen, sending off' 
a branchlet to the west, and ends south of Novaya Zemlja. On 
the other hand, Dr Carpenter contends that the real " Eiver in 
the Ocean" dies out in the mid- Atlantic. According to Dr 
Joseph Chavanne of Vienna (Mittheilungen, No. vii., 1874), the 
northern arm of the Gulf Stream, which flows between Bear 
Island and Novaya Zemlja, touches the northern coast of Asia, 
and eastward of the New Siberia Islands joins. the western drift 
of the Kurosiwo. The other northern branch, which subtends 
the western coast of Spitzbergen and the Seven Islands, is sub- 
merged between the Polar currents, to reappear at the surface 
farther northward, and thence to lave the shores of the Arctic 
continent : the latter is thus washed by two warm streams, 
rendering the existence of perennial ice a sheer impossibility. 

We may fairly question the existence of the Gulf Stream 
along the southern Icelandic shore, and doubt its bifurcation 

1 Lyell's Principles of Geology, vol. i., p. 241, 11th edition. A fuller notice of 
this isotherm (32° F.) is given in Baring-Gould's Introduction, pp. xxx., xxxi. 


and subsequent reunion. This is not the place to discuss the 
subject of ocean circulation, a "discovery equal to that of the 
circulation of the blood," first made by Professor Lenz of St 
Petersburg in 1845, based upon the second voyage of Kotzebue in 
1823-26, and independently by Dr Carpenter during the cruise of 
the "Porcupine" (1869). Their aqueous movement correspond- 
ing with the aerial ; and the mass of thermal equatorial waters 
travelling towards the poles, whilst the counter current sets in the 
inverse direction, would account for many phenomena yet un- 
explained, but it is still suh jiidice lis} We may remark that the 
comparatively shallow seas between the British Islands and Ice- 
land must accumulate heat, and that this fact perhaps suffices for 
what has been attributed to the Gulf Stream and to the general 
circulation. Thomas Bartolin (Acta Medica Havn. ad annum 
1673) mechanically explains away the necessity of the former : 
" Aqua Insulas Perroenses allabens, quamquam per se frigida sit, 
salsitudine tamen sua, ex perpetuo motu, plerumque producit 
hyemem temperatam." Hence the waters of Niagara are colder 
above than below the falls, and the ocean is warmer after a 

Practical men, especially mariners, in Iceland vigorously deny 
the existence of the Gulf Stream.^ Captain Tvede, an intelligent 
and observing Dane whom we shall meet in the eastern regions, 
considers that the theory, like judicial phrenology and a host 
of pseudo-sciences, became popular because it generalises, for- 
malises, and simplifies facts. He declares that a Gulf Stream, if 

^ The question is of vast practical importance. Upon it hinges the decision 
whether future Polar voyages, so necessary to the advanced study of elec- 
trical phenomena, to mention no other, shall take the route by Smith's Sound 
or by Spitzbergen. For the battle of the Gulf Stream and Polar current between 
the Fseroes and Iceland, see the Mittheilungen, xvi, (Nos. vi. and vii. of 1870), 
where the Gulf Stream is made to show 36° '5 F. as far as Novaya Zemlja, and to 
enter the Polar basin with diminution of temperature. The two distinct strata, 
the warm (40°-80° F.), and the heavier and more saline cold (about 35° F.) in the 
channel of the Fseroes towards Scotland, have been described by Drs Carpenter and 
Wyville Thomson, the last time at the British Association, Sect. E, August 22, 

^ The author and his late friend F. F. Steinhaeuser, were never satisfied with 
Admiral Maury's " Ocean Kiver," even though this por} (hKeavoio flowed more 
rapidly and was a thousand times larger than the Mississippi — larger, in- 
deed, than " all the rivers of the globe put together." Like the Pacific Kurosiwo 
or Black Stream, off Japan, it always suggested the idea of being only the main 
artery, the most important and noticeable part of a great whole. 


it existed, would entangle the Greenland icebergs, and carry 
them to the southern coast of Iceland, which never happens. 
He asserts that a few miles south of IngolfshofSi the Sea Eiver 
is still warm, but that instead of striking the shore it trends 
directly north-eastwards to western Norway, sweeps round the 
continental North Cape, and here meets the icebergs from Spitz- 
bergen and Jan Mayen. He has found himself in an ice-dock 
floatiuQ' in water which showed 35° F. ' 

Captain Tvede kindly gave me the following series of observa- 
tions : 

1. June 19, 1867: thermometer in water 46° F. outside of Hrollaugseyar, 6 

miles east of IngolfshofSi, 48° F. 3 miles south-east of ditto, and 47° F. 
20 miles west of ditto. 

2. June 20 : thermometer 47° between Portland and the Vestmannaeyjar, 47° 

F. 12 miles west of the Vestmannaeyjar. 

3. June 23 : thermometer 46° in the BreiSi FjorS, off Stykkisholm. 

4. June 24 : 43° outside of the DifrafjorS, and 43°-43°'50 outside of the IsafjorS. 

5. June 25 : 38° off the Hunafljoi, and 43° off Cap Kord. 

6. July 1 : 40° off the AxarfjorS. 

7. July 4 : 39° off the Langanes (north-eastern point of Iceland). 

8. July 6 : 40° off ViSivik, and 42° outside of BorgarfjorS. 

9. August 4 : 46° 16 miles south-east of Langanes. 

10. August 6 : 42° in the TestilfjorS, western side of Langanes. 

11. August 10 : 38° '50 off Hornnes, and 39° same day off Gerpir, 4 miles south 

of Hornnes. 

12. August 19 : 44° off Dalataur, entrance of SydisfjorS. 

13. August 21: 44° off Heradsfloi. 

14. August 22 : 42° to north, with Kollumuli bearing south-west, 44° at sea. 

15. September 1 : 41" off BerufjorS. 

The subjoined figures are the means of observations taken 
every fourth hour on board the " Jon SiggurSsson " steamer, in 
which the author voyaged (June 26 to August 5, 1872) between 
HafnarfjorS and Grafaros : 

Air. Water. 

1. 12° (C.=:53°-6 F.) 10° (C.=50° F.) at Eeykjavik. 

2. 11° (C.^51°-8 F.) 8°-5(C.:r47°-3 F.) at Flatey. 

3. 13" (C.=55°-4F.)9° (C.=48°'2F.) at 66° 30', W. long. (G.) 24°. 

4. 9° (C.=48°-2 F.) 5°'8 (C.=42°-4 F.) atK lat. 66° 10', W. long. 23° 12'. 

5. 14°-5 (C. =58°-l F.) 8° -8 (C. =47°-8 F.) at BorSeyri. 

6. ]4°-5(C.=58°-lF.) 8°-3 (C.=46°-9 F.) at Grafaros. 

7. 11° (C.=51°-8 F.) 6°-8 (C.=44°-2 F.) at Cap Nord. 

8. 11° (C.=51°-8F.) 8°-5(C.=47°-3F.) atN. lat.65°8', W.long. 23° 24'. 


Both series tend to show the capricious variation of tempera- 
ture (from 38° to 48° ¥., and from 48°-2 to 58°1 F.), where the 
summer sea is subject to the influx of a little snow-water, and 
none of the regularity which might fairly be expected from a 
" gulf-stream," 

2. Every book of travels from Horrebow and Mackenzie to the 
present day, has given notices of the climate of Iceland.^ The 
mean temperature of the Iceland year between 1828 and 1834, 
has been laid down at 3°-42 Eeaumur (= 39°-7 F.). The annual 
average of Copenhagen is assumed at 46°'8 (F.) ; the maximum, 
observed in the shade, being 94°, and the minimum about 19° (F.). 
That of Montreal stands at 6°'30 Eeaumur (= 46°-2 F.). The 
winters in Iceland are colder than in Montreal in October and 
November (both included) ; warmer from December to March, 
and again cooler from April to December. EyjafjorS (N. lat. 
65° 40') is more genial than Cumberland House (N. lat. 53° 57'), 
and much warmer than any place in its own parallel. The 
almost nightless summers from June to August, which must 
affect the respiration of plants, gather caloric, and the sun at 
that season fails to heat only at a very obtuse angle, when the 
rays are intercepted by a thicker column of air. The equatorial 
current which prevails in occidental England for eight or nine 
months during the year, as the south-wester in Iceland, must 
greatly modify the climate. Old travellers assure us that the 
sub-surface is frost-bound throughout the year ; this takes place 
only after a succession of hard winters and ungenial summers — 
even the cellars are rarely frozen in winter if care be taken to 
close the doors. Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (first Eeport on Iceland, 
1865-66), asserts that "the average temperature of the earth 
is about 4J° Eeaumur all the year round." 

Eeykjavik, the capital of Iceland (N. lat. 64° 9'), enjoys a 

1 The most extensive are those of M. Victor Lottier (Physique, etc.), printed in 
the Gaimard work, and containing three parts : I. Observations of magnetism — 
declination, inclination, diurnal variation and intensity. II. Meteorology — 
barometer and thermometer ; force of winds, Aurora Borealis, etc. III. Miscel- 
laneous observations ; astronomical phenomena ; tides ; remarks on maps and 
stations of the expedition. The Smithsonian Institute has published many 
studies of the Icelandic climate : in Scotland, also, as will presently appear, much 
has been done. 



more genial climate than any place whose temperature is re- 
corded between the parallels of 55° and 85° (N. lat.), except 
only St Petersburg (N. lat. 59° 56') and Sitka Sound (N. lat. 
57° 3'). The mean of the year is but 1° (F.) less than that 
of St John's, which lies 16° farther south. The winter cor- 
responds with that of lUukuk, 10° to the south, and the sum- 
mer is much hotter. Humboldt's mean temperature, 40° F., is 
generally adopted, although some reduce it to 39°'4, and even 
to 39°. He makes February, the coldest month, average 28°-22, 
and July, the hottest, 56°'3 — a difference of over 28°, which 
others reduce to 27°. He fixes the winter mean at 29°"1 ; the 
spring at 36°*9 ; the summer at 53°"6 (in Berghaus' Atlas, 50°) ; 
and the autumn at 37°*9. DiUon (pp. 167, 168), during the 
severest season of half-a-century, saw the mercury as low as 10° 
(F.), in February; and Pliny Miles (p. 55) declares that the 
thermometer seldom falls below 12° or 18°. 

It will be remembered that the annual mean of climates, 
where civilisation is highest, represents in Europe 52° (F.), and 
the zone is 15° north and south of N. lat. 40°, an undulating 
belt of 30° arching towards the equator and the poles. Includ- 
ing its protraction eastward and westward, it contains i%^o"ths of 
the white races, and almost all the greatest development. 

Certain valuable " notes on the distribution of animals avail- 
able as food in the Arctic regions," compiled by Herr Petermann, 
and published in the Journal of the E. Geog. Society (vol. xxii.), 
enable us to compare the thermometer in the south and in the 
north of the island. " Eeykiavig " (K lat. " 64°-08 ") is placed 
between N'ew Herrnhut and Fort Keliance, whilst EyjafjorS 
(K lat. 66° 30'), stands between Fort Hope and Winter 

The figures are as follows : 

1. New Herrnliut, 
Fort Reliance, 

2. Fort Hope, . 
EyjafjorS, . 
"Winter Island, 

Spring. Summer. Autumn. Winter. 

Annual mean. Sum. & Wint. 




6° -35 




26°^50 14° 
37°^94 29° 
„ -16° 
13°^93 -25° 
34°^46 20° 
l7°-58 -20° 



16° (?) 



24° -36 


52° -27 



Eanged according to seasons and months, the figures stand : 


New Herrnhut in February (coldest), 22° '10 in March 21° '65 in April 24° -80 
Reykjavik „ 28°-31 „ 29°'86 ,, 36°-46 

Fort Reliance 


-18°-84 „ -6° 



Fort Hope 


-26°'68 „ -28° 


„ -23°^95 



18°-50 „ 20° 



Winter Island 


-23°-99 ,, 10° 



New Herrnhut 

in I\Iay, 

32°-0 in June, 40°-10 in July, 

[hottest), 40° ^33 



44°-80 ,, 51°'58 


Fort Reliance 




Fort Hope 


17°-88 ,, 31°-38 




36°'14 „ 43°-52 


Winter Island 


23°-29 „ 23°-l7 
, Autumn. 


New Herrnhut 

in August 37° -40 in September, 34° -03 


October, 32° -90 


52°-86 ,, 46°'45 


Fort Reliance 

»5 >» J> 

20° -70 

Fort Hope 

46°-32 „ 28°-57 



46°-94 „ 43°-16 


Winter Island 

36°-86 „ 31°-61 


New Herrnhut 

in November, 15° "80 in December 11° '75 


January 9° •OS 


30°-45 „ 29°-41 


Fort Reliance 

13°-44 „ -17°-07 


Fort Hope 

0°-68 ,, -19°-27 

-29° -32 


25° -88 ,, 18° -32 


Winter Island 

7°-88 „ -14°'24 


Dr Joseph Chavanne, before alluded to, gives the following 
table of the wind temperature at Eeykjavik, showing the 
deviations from mean : 

Winter. — Mean Temperature — 1^8. 

N. N.E. E. S.E. S. S.W. W. N.W. Max. Min. Diflf. 

3-6— 2-2 + l-3 + 4-H-3^7 + l-l — 1-4— 2-9 E. 68, S.+4^4 N.— 3^6 8^0 

Summer. — Mean Temperature + 11*0. 
0-0 + 0-5 + 0-1 + 0-2 + 0-3 — 0-7 — 1-0 — 1^3 E.30,S.+0'7 W. 35, N.— 1^6 2-3 

Thus the climate of southern Iceland is insular and not 
excessive. "We have a notorious instance of the same dis- 


position in England. With us Devonia represents the south- 
western coast of Iceland, and justifies Carrington's high praise : 

' ' Thou hast a cloud 
For ever in thy sky ; a breeze, a shower 
For ever on thy meads. Yet where shall man, 
Pursuing spring around the globe, refresh 
His eye with scenes more beauteous than adorn 
Thy fields of matchless verdure ?" 

The northern climate of Iceland, distant only 3° or 180 direct 
geographical miles, is distinctly continental; the difference 
ranging between 14° and 17° (F.). This is easily accounted 
for by the Arctic current, by the proximity of Polar ice, and by 
the prevalence of northern and north-western winds, which, in 
south Iceland as in Palestine, drive away rain. Whatever dis- 
crepancy of opinion there may be concerning the Gulf Stream, 
there can be none about the cold drift which, between Green- 
land and Iceland, measures some fifty miles in breadth, and 
many hundred feet in depth. Hence the north-western digita- 
tions are more subject to floes and bergs than the BreiSi FjorS, 
which again is oftener invested than the Faxa FjorS, the latter 
being rarely beset more than once during the century. Accord- 
ing to Uno Yon Troil, the sea-ice, now so rare, came regularly 
in January with the north-eastern gales, and was never far from 
the north-east coast. At present the season is about April and 
even later. 

In the north, according to Metcalfe (p. 152), the "winter is 
much keener, and the summer is proportionally milder than in 
the south ; some observers deny the truth of the latter part of 
the proposition, and make the hot months average about the 
same figure. The snow often begins with October and lasts till 
mid-May when the temperature stands at a mean of 35° (F.). 
For Akureyri Baring-Gould (quoting the Almanak um Ar 1863), 
gives the year as 32° (F., freezing point = EyjafjorS), the 
winter as 20°'7, and the summer 45°*5. He therefore deter- 
mines that, while the mean of Keykjavik is very nearly tliat 
of Moscow, Akureyri almost corresponds with Julianshaab in 

At Stykkish61m on the mid-west coast (N. lat. Go° 4' 44'', 



and W. long. (Gr.) 22° 43' IT^* observations have been taken by 
Hr A. 0. Thorlacius for nearly thirty years. The gross results 
are given in the following table, taken from the Journal of the 
Scottish Meteorological Society, iii. 148-304 : 

Mean Temperature of the Months at Stykkish6lm, 
during the Years 1845-71. 
Jan. Feb. Mar. April May. June July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Aver. 

281 269 278 33-1 39-8 456 491 48-2 440 377 331 30-4 37°-0 

Highest mean, . 380 347 401 41-9 43-8 60-5 531 51-8 487 43-9 38-4 374 39°-8 

Lowest mean, . 17-2 13 3 12-4 19-8 314 41-5 44-2 43-0 372 325 26-4 240 29° 7 

Mr A. Buchan, the learned Secretary of the Scottish Meteoro- 
logical Society, has printed in the same Journal (1873, pp. 304- 
307), the following highly interesting notice on the climate of 
Iceland, and especially of Stykkisholm, which appear to have great 
differences of temperature in the same months of different years.^ 

"The mean annual temperature of the twenty-six years (1845-71) is 37°"0. 
The highest annual mean of any of the years was 39° '8 in 1847, and the lowest 
29°'7, giving thus the enormous difference of 10°"1. This very low annual mean 
of 29° "7 occurred in 1866 under very exceptional circumstances, which were 
detailed by Mr Thorlacius in a letter 15th October 1866. Spitzbergen ice 
surrounded Iceland on the north and north-east coast from January to the close 
of August in a greater or less degree, and did not wholly disappear till about the 
middle of September. Its effect on the temperature of the summer was therefore 
perceptible. AVhat enormous masses of ice filled up the ocean north of Iceland 
may be conceived from the fact that, in clear weather, its gleaming appearance 
could be observed from Stykkisholm twenty geographical miles, not only during 
the day but also at night. The depression of temperature which followed was 
very great, amounting on the mean of the year to 7°"3 ; of the nine months from 
January to September to 8°'l, and of February and March to 14° "5. Leaving, 
then, this exceptional year out of account, the next lowest annual mean was 33° "6 
during 1859. Hence the coldest year fell short of the mean annual temperature 
to the extent of 3°'4, and the warmest year exceeded it by 2°'8. 

"With 1859 began a marked diminution of temperature. For the previous 
thirteen years the annual mean was on each, except 1848 and 1855, above the 
average — the mean of these thirteen years being 38° '2, or 1°"2 above the average. 
For the next thirteen years the mean was only 35° '8. Thus the first half of the 
period was 2° "4 warmer than the last half. 

"As regards the annual mean of temperature, the lowest (26° "9) occurs in 
February, and the highest (49° "0) in July — the difference between the coldest 
and the warmest months being thus 22° '1. The three coldest months are 
January, February, March, the mean temperature of which is 27° '6, that of 

^ The author has been unable to find at Trieste, the publications of the 
" Smithsonian Institute." 


December being 2° "8 higher. In tlie northern part of the British Isles, and at 
the western station of the Atlantic, these are also the three coldest months, but 
the diflference between their mean temperature and that of December is com- 
jmratively small, whereas in the south-east and interior of Great Britain, 
December, January, and February are the three coldest months. 

' ' In tlie extreme north of the British Isles, the warmest month is August, and 
the temperature of September, if it does not exceed, is nearly equal to that of 
June. But at Stykkisholm, July is the warmest month, and the temperature of 
September is 1°"6 colder than that of June. Another point of difference between 
Iceland and Scotland is that at Stykkisholm, the mean temperature of April and 
that of November are the same, viz., 33°*1, whereas in Scotland April is 44° '7 
and November 40° '3, or April is 7° '4 warmer than November. 

' ' Hence the striking peculiarity of the climate of this part of Iceland is : 
During the cold half of the year the seasons are longer delayed than in any part of 
Great Britain. At Greenwich the mean temperature of April, as compared with 
November, being 6° "5 warmer; at York, 4° '9 ; at Aberdeen, 3°'9 ; at Bressay, 
Shetland, 0°-8 ; but at Stykkisholm, 0°"0. On the other hand, during the 
summer months the seasons at Stykkish61m are not delayed as in Shetland and 
Orkney, but resemble in this respect the eastern district of Great Britain. 

"The great annual increase of temperature takes place from April to June — 
the increase of April being 5° "3, of May 6° '7, and of June 4° '8, and the great 
annual decrease from September to November — the decrease of September being 
4°'2, October 6°'3, and of November 4°-6. 

"But the most remarkable feature in the Icelandic climate is the great 
differences which occur in the temperature of the same month from year to year. 
This is seen in the highest and lowest temperature of each month during the 
twenty-six years. Thus, as regards March, the mean temperature in 1846 was 
40°"1, but in 1866 it was only 12° '4, thus showing a fluctuation of 27°"7 in the 
mean temperature of March. The mean monthly fluctuation in the first four 
months of the year amounts to 22° '9, and for the whole twelve months 14° '9. 
As regards Scotland, the largest difference for any month during the past fifteen 
years was 11° '4 — the temperature of December 1857 being 44° '9, and of the same 
month 1870 being 33° '5. In Scotland, the average of the whole twelve months 
is only 7°'l, or less than half of Iceland. These singular fluctuations of tempera- 
ture are readily explained by the position of Iceland with respect to the Arctic 
legions on the one hand, and to the Atlantic with its warm currents on the other. 
As more than usual prevalence of easterly winds rapidly and greatly depresses the 
temperature by bringing to its coasts the cold, if not also the frozen regions. On 
the contrary a prevalence of south-westerly winds disperses the cold, and pours 
over the island the genial warmth of the Atlantic. This fluctuating character of 
the season is frequentlj'' very disastrous, it being evident that such summers as 
that of 1866, whose mean temperature was only 42° '9, will well-nigh altogether 
prevent the growth of vegetation. " 

The veteran observer Hr Tliorlacius has laid down the follow- 
ing rule : " The great and sudden diminution of pressure which 
characterises the winter months is the outstanding feature of the 


meteorology of Iceland." ^ The barometric mean during twenty- 
five years at 37 feet above the sea is 29 '602. There are two 
annual maxima of pressure, the greater in May and the lesser 
in November ; whilst the minima are in January and October. 
The average yearly rainfall closely agrees with the lower parts 
of the Scottish Lothians — between 1856-68 the mean was 
26"81 inches ; the maximum (1868) being 34'23, and the mini- 
mum (1867) 21-28. The greatest amount fell in autumn 
and winter — in October 316 inches, and in May 1*41. The 
amount of melted snow, annually registered, ranges from 4 to 12 
feet; the mean of twelve years is 7'43; the maximum (1863) 
is 12'21, the minimum (1867) 4"76. The snowy days average 82 
per annum, and the greatest falls are in January, 140 ; in Feb- 
ruary, 1'34 ; in December, 1*24; and in March, 118. During 
seven of the twelve years no snow appeared in June ; during ten 
none in July ; during eleven none in August ; and during five 
none in September. The severest storm remembered was in 
1868 ; snow began on January 15, and lasted till the end of 
March, making 7'14 inches. With one or two exceptions, Green- 
land ice annually showed itself at Stykkisholm between 1859-69. 
Thunderstorms w^ere very variable. None were registered between 
February 1860 and August 1861 (included), but sixteeen during 
the six months between November 1853 and April 1854. Of 111 
thunderstorms in twenty-three years nearly half were in December 
(twenty-five) and January (twenty-seven) ; two occurred in May 
and July, none in June and August. In the Faeroes, also, thunder- 
storms are wintry, not summery : the reason seems to be that when 
the peaks are bare, electricity is equally distributed ; but when 
they are invested with snow, a bad conductor, the local conges- 
tion relieves itself by discharges. Thunder is said to sound, as we 
might expect, unusually loud, the effect of rocky hill and stony 

^ Old writers declared that the mercury habitually rose higher in Norway and 
Iceland than in England and France ; moreover, that the air particles being more 
compressed and heavier, diminished the weight of objects. Thus, we are assured, 
1000 lbs. of copper at Rouen = 1010 at Throndhjem. 

^ The author did not see a thunderstorm during his stay in Iceland. As regards 
reverberation, he remarked on the Camerones Mountain, wlien above the electrical 
discharges, and when free from the echo of earth, that the lightning was followed 
only by a short, sharp report, without any ** rolling." 

VOL. I. E 


3. The climate of Iceland, if not pleasant, is assuredly one 
of the most wholesome. All the English travellers upon the 
island in the summer of 1872 agreed that Anglo-Indians on 
" sick leave " should prefer a tour in the north to the debilitating 
German Bader, or to the fantastic hydropathic establishments 
which are best suited to riotous health. Consumptive patients, 
and those suffering from constitutional and nervous debility, 
have of late years been diverted to the dry, cold, and bracing air 
of Canada, instead of the parts preferred by their fathers — Mont- 
pelier, with its dreadful Vent de hise; Pau, where the people 
describe their year as eight months of winter and four of Venfer ; 
Pisa, where Johamium and Barahtit — the hot and cold places of 
punishment — seem to meet ; and bilious Madeira, with its en- 
feebling, warm milk-and-water air, which may relieve the one- 
lunged, but is sadly trying to those with two. In Iceland 
throughout summer the stimulus of light is never wanting; 
rich, oily fish can always enter into the bill of fare ; and the 
evidence is in favour of " free ozone," whose absence has 
accounted for the presence of cholera.^ Hence phthisis 
hardly appears amongst the diseases of the islanders, although, 
when transported to warmer regions, they are as liable to it 
as natives of more genial climes. And whilst in Russia an 
overcoat may be necessary during the height of summer, in 
Iceland tourists walk about bare-headed at midnight. 

There is a regular tide round the island, ebbing (Icel. fjara) and 
flowing (Icel. fioS) according to the rule of six hours. It sets into 
the FjorSs, but in the offing it subtends the shore. According 
to old observers, these movements are stronger at the full and 
change, and strongest at the equinoxes. As every wind must 
blow more or less from the sea, those which pass over the least 
expanse of land bring rain condensed by the cold heights. Upon 
the coast there is a kind of daily trade following the summer 
sun's course, like that known in Norway.^ Cyclones are ap- 

^ Ozone is utterly absent during the Sliarki or Scirocco of Syria, and the trying 
effects of the east wind upon the constitution are well known to every resident. 
This is the more curious as it exists in the adjoining desert, when in the Nile valley 
and in the oases it is comparatively deficient. It has lately been proved to be 
everywhere more abundant in winter than in summer, 

2 It is there called Soel-far Vind (sun-faring wind); hence Sol-gangs veSr 


parently wanting, but history records the most violent volcanic 
hurricanes ; mountain squalls are the rule, and the smoke-gale 
of water-dust reminds us of the Continental Gauskuld, caused by 
the Finn-Lapp Magician sending forth his fly. In Iceland, as 
all the world over, the uplands are warmer than the lowlands — a 
fact well known to the ancients, but apparently puzzling to the 
modern traveller. "What is remarkable," says Henderson (i. 
104), " I found the temperature of the atmosphere twelve degrees 
warmer in this hyperborean region than it was below in the 
valley." Yet it is easy to understand that whilst heated air 
rises, cold sinks ; moreover, that, as a rule, there is more water, 
and consequently more evaporation, in lowlands than in high- 

The mists (Mistar) are of the three kinds described by the 
Eev. G. Landt (Fseroe Islands, London, Longmans, 1810): (1.) 
Skadda, or white cumulus on the hill-tops, supposed to show wet 
weather ; (2.) Bolamjorkie, the vapour-belt which girdles the 
mountain flanks ; and (3.) Mokyer (Icel. Thoka), the common fog 
of England.^ 

The Aurora Borealis, which the pagans held to be an emana- 
tion of the Deity — a nimbus encircling some mighty brow — and 
in which Greenland sees ghosts playing with walrus' heads, is 
expected to appear in mid- August, but of course not so splendidly 
as in winter. The author never saw either streamers or zodiacal 
light. Uno Von Troil (p. 54) makes the former show from all 
quarters, but especially from the southern horizon. Metcalfe 
(p. 385) asserts that it ranges from north-east to south-west, and 
there is a popular idea that the focus is more easterly than it 
was a decade ago. In the Faeroes it flashes either from west 
and north-west to east, or from east and north-east to west. 
The streamers are bluish- yellow, gold-coloured, and red ; rarely 

means weather of the sun's course. The normal continental winds are (1. ) the Land- 
south (south-east), warm, and therefore called Korn-moen, or the mother of corn; 
(2.) the north-east, termed Hambakka because it melts snow from the hill-tops; 
(3.) the Haf-gul (sea cooler), the west wind or sea breeze of the tropics, blowing 
from noon till midnight; and (4.) the Land-gul (land cooler), the east or land breeze, 
lasting from 2 a.m. to lo a.m. 

•■■ Mr J. A. Hjaltalin remarks, "Thoka is equivalent to the English fog, and 
SjoloeSa (sea creeper) is the mist which lies on the surface of the water, leaving 
the hill-tops clear. These are the only Icelandic names known to me." 

68 ULTIMA thule; or, 

blue, green, and scarlet. The latter are called Lopt-eldr^ or lift- 
fire, which shows the sky aflame. It comes with strong winds 
and drifting snows, and, as in most hyperborean parts, it 
betokens great carnage over the place where it rises. Icelanders 
can no longer make the aurora draw nearer by whistling to it. 

The Alpen-glow, also called the evening aurora, is often a 
glorious spectacle when the reflection of the blood-red west, 
showing that the sun has just set, falls upon craggy hill and 
lowland slope, lighting up every house and field to a distance of 
five or six miles, and washing colour over the daguerrotyped 
outlines, usually so hard and sharp. When distant objects seem 
near in most countries men predict rain, here the rule apparently 
fails. The " Vetrar-braut," or course of winter (Milky Way), is 
by no means so bright as some travellers have described it. In 
heathen times its appearance was used to forecast the hard 
months, especially as fortune -telling was part of the great 
autumnal feasts and sacrifices. The author never saw in Ice- 
land the phosphorescent water supposed to betray the presence of 
electricity and ozone, nor the fidgor hrutum seu spiirium of 
romantic meteorologists. The rainbow (Icel. Eegnbogi MkuSs,^ 
or of " Old Nick ") is of course common ; the twilights strike the 
stranger from the northern temperates as being unimportant like 
those of the tropics ; and there is a name for the mirage or heat- 
reek, Hillingar, or Upp-hillingar, when rocks and islands look as 
if lifted (" up-heaved ") from the level of the sea. The common 
meteors are the Moorild or moor-fire of [N'orway (ignis lahentes seu 
fatui), here called Hrsevar-eldr ^ and Sngeljos. Castor and Pollux 
in Christian times either became Saint Elmo's (San Telmo's) 
flames, or connected themselves with Saints Nicholas and Clare ; 
hence the Corpo Santo, and hence our " corpusance," frequently 
observed by the circumnavigator Pigafitta (a.d. 1519-1522). The 
old English sailor regarded them as Will-o'-the-wisps intimately 
related to a certain Davy Jones. The others are the Gygjar-sol 

^ The term is also applied to lightning, and to meteors generally. Hooker cor- 
rupts it to " Laptelltur, " and he has been copied into many a popular book, 

^ The word is written NikuSr and NikuSs, Hnikar and Nikarr :. originally a title 
of Odin, it has survived in the Icel. Nykr, a nick or water-goblin in the shape of a 
grey sea-horse, with inverted hoofs ; and in the German Nix, a nymph or water-fairy. 

^ Or a "carrion lowe " (Cleasby). , 


(gow-sun) or Aiika-solir, mock sun (parabolia) ; and paraselense or 
lunar halos, with Eosabaugr, or storm-rings, literally "sleet-rings," 
the effect of minute ice spiculse, or, perhaps, metallic particles, in 
the upper air refracting the light, and producing rainbow-hued 
circles and ovals, which often bisect one another. Water-spouts, 
the typhous of the Greeks, caused by the suction of clouds highly 
charged with electricity, have been observed. We read of fire- 
balls or shooting-stars (Viga-hnottur or Stjornuhrap); of electric 
flames and red-hot globes (volcanic bombs) discharged with loud 
detonations during eruptions ; and the people still believe in the 
" fire- vomiting" of their craters. Modern science explains the 
phenomenon by the reflection of the brilliant, glowing, glaring lava 
and the red-hot scoriae, upon the dust and ash column, and upon 
the " smoke-clouds," which are really steam and other vapours. 
Yet M. Abich declares that in the Vesuvian eruption of 1834, he 
distinctly saw the flame of burning hydrogen, and this, indeed, 
might be expected. 

As has been observed, the year of grace 1872 was exceptional. 
It opened with the finest weather till the equinox, after which it 
broke and strewed the ground with four feet of snow. Eain 
endured till the last quarter of June, but the rest of the travelling 
season was absolutely delightful. Mild east winds prevailed at 
Reykjavik, and the warmth of the " sirocco," as it was called, set 
the citizens speculating upon the possibility of an eruption in 
the interior. After July 11th the sky was that of Italy for a whole 
fortnight. The autumn was rough, with heavy gales from north- 
east to east, and from south-east to south-west ; there were also 
hard frosts about mid-November, after which the weather became 
as mild as in 1871. Dr Hjaltalin, Land-Physicus or Physician- 
General of Iceland, was inclined to think that the summers were 
waxing warmer in Snowland, as they are gTOwing, or are supposed 
to grow, colder in Scotland. 

The travelling season of 1873 was very raw and dry. Prom 
the 20th of June to the 20th of July strong north winds pre- 
vailed, and from the 16th to the 18th of July there was a 
considerable fall of snow. August was tolerably rainless, but 
cold, and winter set in in earnest about the 20th of September. 

70 ultima thule; or, 

§ 4. Chronometry. 

In these hyperborean regions the light season and the dark 
season represent the " dries " and " rains " of the tropical zone. 
The gradual changes from winter to summer, and vice versa, 
known as spring and autumn, can hardly exist when the frost 
often binds the ground till mid- June, and reappears in latter 
August.^ Thus the Edda of the old JSTorthmen (VafthruSnisraal, 
Thorpe's trans., st. 27) very rightly distributes the year into 
only two parts : 

* ' Vindsval liight he 
Who Winter's father is, 
And Svasud Summer's." ^ 

The ancient heathen year contained 364 days (12 x 30 + 4 
Auka-nsetr, or Eke-nights) : ^ the remaining day, with its fraction, 
was gathered up into an intercalary week, called Summer-eke, 
or Eke-week, introduced by Thorstein Surt (the black) about 
the middle of the tenth century. Of old it was inserted at the 
end of summer every sixth or seventh year, which then num- 
bered 191 days. The Gregorian style inserts it every fifth or 
sixth year. Thus 1872 is marked the " first year after Sumar- 
auki;" the years 1860, 1866, and 1871 being years with "Sumar- 
auki." New style was not adopted till a.d. 1700. 

The light months technically began with the Thursday pre- 
ceding April 16,4 0. S., = April 26, K S. On that day 
children received their Sumar-gjof (summer presents), which 
take the place of our Easter gifts. The season consisted of 184 
days (30 X 6 + 4 Auka-nsetr) ; the eke-nights being inserted 
before midsummer, which parts the season into two halves, each 

^ Even at Trieste, which is the heart of the teraperates, with the parallel of 
45° passing near it, there is an autumn, but no spring, the weather changing at 
once from cold to heat. 

^ SvasuSr, the name of a giant, the father of Summer. See the Edda. 

^ The way of counting amongst the old Scandinavians and Teutons was com- 
plex and curious, as they had no indeclinable numeral adjectives from twenty to 
a hundred {i.e., 120) : the word "tigr, " a ten or decade, was a noun like Hun- 
dratJ and Thusund. Thus 41 was called 4 tens and 1, or " 1 of the fifth decade ;" 
45 was "half the fifth tenth ; " and 48 was "4 tens and 8 ; " or going back (like 
the Lat. un-de-viginti and duo-de-triginta) "5 tens short of 2." In the four- 
teenth century " tigr " began to lose its character as a substantive (Cleasby). 

* Mr Dasent says the Thursday between April 9 and 15 (0. S.). 


of three months. Thus in the Iceland almanac for 1872, 
Sumar-dagr-fyrsti (first summer day) fell on Thursday, April 
25; the Auka-naetr ranged between July 24 to 27; MiG-sumar 
was on July 28; and Sumar-dagT-siSasti (last summer day) 
happened on October 25. In modern usage the time from April 
to October is reckoned by the Sumar-vikur (summer weeks), the 
first, second, seventh, and twentieth; and the calendars mark 
every Thursday, during the light season, by the current number 
of the week. The " travelling time " extends from the Inven- 
tion of the Cross (May 3) to St Bartholomew's Day (August 
24). Meteorologically, summer opens with July. The winter, 
or dark half of the year (Vetr), began on the Saturday before 
St Luke's Day (0. S.), or that Saint's Day if a Saturday; and, 
like the summer, lasted twenty-six weeks. The Vetrar-dagr- 
fyrsti (first winter day) for 1872 and 1873 corresponds with 
Saturday, October 26. The following are the names of the 
months (ManuSr or ManaSr) : 

1. January — Icelandic, Morsugr, " fatsucker ; " Anglo-Saxon, 

j^fUra (second) Giuli (Yule), from the turning or tropic 
of the sun ; Old Danish, Julemaaned. 

2. February — Icel., Tlwrri ; A. S., Sol monath, from offerings 

made to the sun ; 0. D., Blidemaaned, or " blythe month." 

3. March — Icel., Goi ;^ A. S., Rhed-monath, " travel-month," or 

" month of the goddess Eheda," to whom warlike sacrifices 
were offered ; 0. D., Tormaaned, or " Thor's month " — 
hence Lucan (Phars., lib. i.) : 

'* Et Taranus Scythicse non melior ara Dianse." 

4. April — Icel., Uinmdnu^r ; A. S., Eostre monath, " Easter 

month," from the goddess Eostre; 0. D., Faaremaaned, 
" fair month," or " sheep month." 

5. May — Icel., Harpa, or gaukmdnu'Sr,^ " cuckoo month," or 

sa^lid, " sowing season;" A. S., Trimilchi, because the 
sheep were milked thrice a day; 0. D., Maimaaned, taken 
from the classics. 

^ Modern, Goa. 

^ " Gaukmanu'Sr, " according to GuSbrandr Vigfusson, from the middle of April 
to the middle of May. Gaukr is the Scotch gowk, the cuckoo. Hrossa-gaiikr, 
"horse cuckoo," is the green sandpiper, from its peculiar cry (Cleasby). In 
Sect. 7 the word will be found to have another meaning. 


6. June — IceL, Skerpla, or eggliQ, "egg-season," or steJcMi'6; A. S., 

JErra (first) Li(5a, " serene sea ; " 0. D., Homaaned, or 
" hay month." The 3d to 5th of June are called Fardagar, 
" flitting-days," because then householders change their 

7. July — IceL, Sdlmdnu^r, " sun-month," or Selmdnu'Sr, "saeter 

month;" A. S., ^ftera Zi^a; 0. D., Ormemaaned, or 
" worm (lumbrici) month." 

8. August — IceL, Hey-annir, or " time of haymaking," which 

ends about the middle of next month ; A. S., JVeide 
monath, " pasture month," or Wenden monath, " tare 
month ; " 0. D., Hoestmaaned. 

9. September — IceL, Tvimdnu'Sr ; A. S., Hcdeg monath, or 

" holy month ; " 0. D., Fiskemaaned. 

10. October — 1q,q\., HaustmdnvZr, " harvest or autumn month," 

or Gar^lagsmdnyZr, " the month for building fences ; " 
A. S., Winterfyllath, or "winter-full;" 0. D., Scedemaanedy 
" seed-month." 

11. November — IceL, GormdmiZr, " gore-month," or " slaughter- 

month ; " A. S., Bloth monoih, " sacrifice-month ; " 0. D., 
Slagtemaaned, " slaughter month." 

12. December — IceL, FrermdmcQr, " frost month," or Ylir, 

" howler," from the howling storms ; A. S., Mrra Giuli 
(first Yule) ; 0. D,, JuUmaaned} 

There is a quaint way of numbering the month-days by the 
knuckles of the closed fist, which denote the longer, while the 
intervals represent the shorter divisions, a memoria technica, 
thus taking the place of our mnemonic lines, " Thirty days hath 
September," etc. This "Dactylismus Ecclesiasticus,"^ concerning 

1 According to the old Icelandic computation of time, as given in the Almanak, 
Heyannir ^A'as the first month, and began the 25th of July; II. TvimanuSr; III. 
HaustmanuSr ; IV". GormanuSr ; V. Frermanu'Sr ; VI. Morsugr ; YII. Thorri ; 
VIII. Goi; IX. EinmanutJr; X. Harpa; XI. Skerpla; XII. SolmanuSr, ending 
on the 20th of July. From July 21st to 24th are called Aukansetur. The names of 
the months VII. to IX. are still popularly known. For the rest, the Icelanders count 
by winter weeks and summer weeks, when they do not use the common names of 
the months. The terms given by Finnur Magnusson in Specimen Calendarii, 
e.g., MiSvetrarmanuSr, Fostuinngangsmanutfr, are never used, and it cannot be 
seen that they ever were known to the people. 

^ See the Icel. treatise called " Fingra-rlm ; " rim = computation, calendar : A. S. 
rim, and ge-rim. 


which Bishop Jon Arnason wrote, is possibly what Uno Yon 
Troil means (p. 118), " They make use of an art to discover the 
sun by their fingers." 

The heathen week consisted of " Fimts " (pentads), whence, 
probably, the sacred pentagonal star of Odinism; and six of these 
formed the month. Thus the year was composed of seventy-two 
weeks, a holy number (= 2 X 36, or 6 X 12). This old style 
lingered long after the introduction of the planetary heptad, and 
lasts in such expressions as " There are many turns of the 
weather in five days (a fimt), but more in a month." Yet the 
week (vika) was already in use about the middle of the tenth 
century. Bishop John, who died in A.D. 1121, induced Iceland 
to adopt the hebdomadal division, and the ecclesiastical names 
of the days, as they survive in Spanish and Portuguese, e.g., 
Feria secunda, etc. Here we recognise, with the exception of the 
two first, the familiar Quaker custom : 

Sunday is Sunnu-dagr, or Drottins-dagr, " the Lord's day." 

Monday — Mdna-dagr, modern Icel. Manu-dagr. 

Tuesday — Thrift, or Thri'^ju-dagr, " third day." 

Wednesday — Mi^viku, contracted to Mi^ku-dagr, the Germ. 

Thursday — Fimti-dagr, or " fifth day." 

Friday — Fostu-dagr, " fast-day," the 0. Swed. Yor Frudag, 
" U joiiT de Notre Dame,'' who took the place of Freya. 

Saturday — Laugar-dagr, " bath day," as in the times of Eng- 
land before " tubbing." 

The old Icelandic names of the week days were : Sunnudagr, 
Manadagr, Tysdagr (from Tyr, Tuisco, the one-armed god of 
war), Osinsdagr, Thorsdagr, Frjadagr, and Laugar or Thvatt dagr 
("washing-day," i.e., Saturday). 

Both Iceland and the Fseroes have preserved the classical and 
Oriental system of dividing into watches (Icel. Dagsmark, plur. 
Dagsmork, "day's marks''^), corresponding with the "Pahar" 
still used throughout Hindostan. They ignored the hour, which 

^ Dagsmark, " day-mark," means both the space of three hours (trihorium) and 
the mark by which this period is fixed. 


would have been too troublesome and minute. Wanting time- 
pieces, they used sundials (Solskifa) and sand-glasses. The 
rudest form was the peak or cairn, whose shadow noted the 
time : the same system still prevails amongst the Bedawin. By 
the sun also they learned to calculate the periods of ebb and 
flow, and the southern altitude of the luminary denoted the 
meridian. In winter evenings time was marked by the position 
of the Pleiades, called, ^ar excellence, the Stjarna (star). The 
other constellations found useful at night were Orvindals-ta 
(toe of Orwendel, = Eigel Orionis ?) ; Thjaza augu (the eyes 
of Thiassi, = Castor and Pollux ?) ; EeiS Eognis (Charles' Wain, 
the Wain of Eogn or Odin ; whence also Eagna-rok, the twilight 
of the gods and doom of the world) ; and Loka-brenna (Sirius, 
Loki's fire, also referring to the final Odinic conflagration). 

The Eseroese divide the day into eight oktur (Icel. eyktir) 
and sixteen half-oktur, the word Okt being shortened from 
octava.^ The Icelanders reckon nine like our seamen, the ad- 
ditional one being a " dog-watch," formed by dividing the 180 
minutes into two. Their names are : 

1. Ndtt-mdl, or night-meal to 9 P.M. 

2. MtSncetti, to midnight. 

3. Otta, from midnight to 3 A.M. : " hana-otta " is cock-crow. 

4. MiSur-morgun, also called Hir'^is-risindl, " the rising time 

of the shepherd," to 6 A.M. 

5. Dagmdl, day-meal to 9 a.m. Qiora tertia,) 

6. Hddegi, or Hx6r-dagr, " high-day " till noon. 

7. Mi'6-mundi, first dog-watch from noon to 1.30 p.m. 

8. Non, in olden times also Eykt, second dog-watch from 1.30 

p.m. to "nona," or 3 p.m. 

9. Mi'Sr-aptn, or mid- afternoon to 6 p.m. 

The shortest day in the south averages five hours,^ and the 
longest is everywhere twenty-four. 

As will appear in the Journal, Iceland preserves the Hebrew 
style of beginning the civil day with evening, not with midnight 

^ Others derive it from vika, a week. 

2 Dillon reduces it at Reykjavik to three, and he found the sunlight during 
Christmas little lighter than our twilights ; but the winter was worse than usual. 


like the rest of Europe. So Tacitus (cap. ii.) of the Germans : 
" Nee dierum numerum, ut nos, sed noctium computant ; " and 
the older ecclesiastical law reckoned the greater feasts from the 
nones or evenings of the preceding days. The hours are frac- 
tioned after the English-Norwegian, not the German fashion : 
thus 3.30 would be called " half (after) three," instead of " half 
(to) four " (halb vier). Similarly our seamen when heaving the 
lead sing out, " And a half three," i.e., three fathoms and a half. 

§ 5. Summary. 

Iceland has the general contour of Ireland with the eastern 
side turned round to face the Arctic Pole. It is a square, cut, 
furrowed, and digitated by the violence of the northern, the 
north-eastern, and the south-western winds and waves ; and its 
shape is regular, and unsupplied with ports only in the south, 
where, like Sicily, it is least exposed to weather. 

The " little white spot in the Arctic Sea " is the epitome of a 
world generated by the upheaval and the eruption ; dislocated 
and distorted by the earthquake, and sorely troubled and 
tortured by wintry storms, rains, snows, avalanches, fierce 
debacles, and furious gales. The far greater portion, the plateau 
above the seaboard, has a weird and sinister aspect; verging 
on the desolation of Greenland, and lacking the sternness and 
grandeur of nature in Norway. And nowhere, even in the 
fairest portions, can we expect the dense forest on the Alp, " up 
to the summit clothed with green ; " the warbling of birds, the 
murmurs of innumerous bees, the susurrus of the morning 
breeze, or the melodious whispering of the " velvet forest : " 
their places are taken by black rock and glittering ice, by the 
wild roar of the foss, and by the mist-cloud hung to the rugged 
hill-side. We may not look for that prodigality of colour with 
which sun and air paint the scenery of the happier south. The 
first impressions recorded by travellers are the astonishing 
transparency of the atmosphere, the absence of trees, the 
metallic green of the gxass-fields, the pink and purple sheen 
of the mountain heaths, the sharp contrast of Ossas and warts. 


of ice and fire-born rock ; and tlie prevalence of raw-wliite and 
dull-black hues, like gulls' feathers strewed upon a roof of tarred 
shingles, in fact the magpie suits of snowy jokuU and sable fell. 

Despite the almost hyperborean latitude, the frequent oases — 
Wadys or Fiumaras — of admirable verdure, soft and secluded 
from the horrors of loose sand and black lava, have suggested 
reminiscences of the Arabian wildernesses, whilst the caravans 
of ponies, the " dromedaries of the glacial desert," add a special 
feature of resemblance. 

The "general glance" of southern travellers is perhaps too 
gloomy. It was hardly fair of the ancient Icelandic poet (tenth 
century) to call his native island a " gallows of slush," or for 
the modern Icelandic parson to describe it as "nothing but 
bogs, rocks, and precipices ; precipices, rocks, and bogs ; ice, 
snow, lava; lava, snow, ice; rivers and torrents; torrents and 
rivers." Cleasby crudely assures us that "the whole of 
Iceland may be said to be a burnt-out lava field, from eruptions 
previous to the peopling of the country." Henderson says 
rudely : " The general aspect of the country is the most rugged 
and dreary imaginable ;" he quotes Jeremiah about a region 
" where all life dies, death lives, and Nature breeds all mon- 
strous, all prodigious things ;" and he dwells with apparent 
gusto upon the " doleful and haggard tracts," through which it 
was his " privilege " safely to pass. Baring-Gould repeats : 
"The general aspect of Iceland is one of utter desolation." 
Forbes gives an even more gloomy picture of repulsive de- 
formity. One might be reading in these travellers a description 
of St Magnus' Bay : 

" For all is rock at random thrown, 
Black waves, blue crags, and banks of stone ; 

As if were here denied 
The summer sun, the spring's sweet dew, 
That clothe with many a varied hue. 
The blackest mountain side." 

The harsh name " Iceland," which took the place of the far 
more picturesque and correct "Snse-land," predisposes the 
wanderer to look upon this northern nature with unfriendly 
glance; but it is strange how her beauties grow upon him. 


Doubtless the scenery depends far more upon colour and com- 
plexion than in the genial lands of the lower temperates. But, 
during the delightfully mild and pleasant weather of July and 
August, seen through a medium of matchless purity, there is 
much to admire in the rich meads and leas stretching to meet 
the light-blue waves ; in the fretted and angular outlines of the 
caverned hills, the abodes of giant and dwarf; in the towering 
walls of huge horizontal steps which define the Fjords; and in the 
immense vistas of silvery cupolas, " cravatted " cones, and snow- 
capped mulls, which blend and melt with ravishing reflections 
of ethereal pink, blue, azure, and lilac, into the grey and neutral 
tints of the horizon. There is grandeur, too, when the Storm- 
Fiend rides abroad ; amid the howl of gales, the rush of torrents, 
the roar of water-falls; when the sea appears of cast-iron; 
when the sky is charged with rolling clouds torn to shreds as 
they meet in aerial conflict; when the pale-faced streams 
shudder under the blast ; when grim mists stalk over the 
lowlands ; and when the tall peaks and " three-horns," parted 
by gloomy chasms, stand like ghostly hills in the shadowy 
realm. And often there is the most picturesque of contrasts : 
summer basking below, and winter raging above ; peace brood- 
ing upon the vale and elemental war doing fierce battle upon 
the eternal snows and ice of the upper world. 

Finally, there is one feature in Iceland which assumes a 
grandeur of dimensions unknown to Europe — the Hraun or lava 
stream. The "rivers of stone," like those of water, bear no 
proportion to the size of the island. The western arm of the 
Skaptarfellsliraun, for instance, is nearly forty-eight miles long 
by ten of breadth at the lower end ; and there are thousands of 
square miles covered by the Oda5a-hraun or Terrible Lava 
Stream. Every fantastic form, save of life, is there, and we 
cannot w^onder if the peasant peoples them with outlying men 
or brigands. In a word, the student of Vulcanism must not 
neglect Iceland. 



The author has no intention of troubling his readers with tlie 
normal "historical sketch," which is usually an uninteresting 
abridgment — "compendium, dispendium," — handed down from 
traveller to traveller. But it may be useful as well as interesting 
to dwell upon both extremes of the island annals; upon the 
beginning which is a disputed point, and upon the end which is 
still causing so much movement. 

The Landnamabok (i. 1) briefly relates how, "according to 
some, N"addodd the Viking, in the days of Harold Fairfax, when 
sailing from Norway to the Fseroes, was driven westward, and 
came upon the eastern coast of the island which he called Snae- 
land;" how the Swede GarSar Svafarson, after the earliest cir- 
cumnavigation, named it GarSarsholm, and established Htisavik; 
how Eloki VilgerSarson, a mighty corsair (het Vikingr mikill) 
found ice investing the northern coast (a.d. 868) and gave the 
island its present grim and grisly title — "Greenland "being more 
kindly treated for advertising purposes, "a good name would 

1 Synopsis of dates : 

A.D. 860 (861, Uno Von Troil). Iceland touched at by Naddodd. About this 

time (862), the Scandinavians, according to Nestor, founded the 

Eussian empire. 
,, 864. GarSar Svafarson built the first house in " GarSarsholm. " 
,, 874. First official colonisation of Iceland by Ingolfr Arnarson. 
,, 877. Gunnbjorn discovered the Gunnbjornarsker and coast of Greenland. 
,, 929. Althing or Diet founded by Ulfljot. 

,, 930-1300, Augustan age of literature under the aristocratic Republic. 
,, 981-1000. Official discovery of the New World by the Northmen. 
,, 982. Greenland visited by Eirikr Rau?Ji (Eric the Red), father of Leifr 

the Lucky. 
,, 986. First colony in Greenland established by the same. In 1124 the 

Bishop's See was placed at GarSar. 
,, 1262-1264. Iceland incorporated with Norway. 
,, 1380. ,, ,, ,, Denmark. 

,, 1477. Iceland visited by Columbus. 

,, 1540-1551. Lutheranism prevailed over Catholic Christianity. 
„ 1800. Althing abolished. 
,, 1843. ,, re-established. 
,,1845. ,, first met at Reykjavik. 
,, 1874. First Constitution granted to the island on the date of its Millenary 

after Ingolfs settlement. 


induce people to settle there ; " how Fldki's companion Thorolf, 
describing it as a place where butter dropped from every plant, 
the northern equivalent of "flowing with milk and honey," 
gained the nickname of Th6r61fr Smjor (Butter Thorolf) ; and 
finally, how Ingolfr, banished for murder, accompanied by his 
foster-brother and friend, Leifr, or Hjor-leifr (Leif of the sword), 
HroSmarsson, settling in A.D. 870-874, the latter was murdered 
by his Irish thralls — an agrarian outrage which has since hap- 
pened to many a landlord in the Emerald Isle. This official 
occupation of Ultima Thule took place shortly after King 
Alfred had defeated the Danes (a.d. 871): thus 1874 is the Mil- 
lenary of Iceland colonisation, as 1872 was the Jubilee of Harold 
Fairfax, and as 1876 will be the Centenary of Freedom in 
the U.S. 

But the Landnamabok proposes to itself a subject, the emi- 
gration of the pagan I^orthmen, who nimd (Icel. " namu ") the 
island,^ and a few sentences, short and vague, are deemed sufficient 
for the older occupants. Later Scandinavian authors generally 
have satisfied themselves with repeating its statements, and have 
clung to a tradition which evidently does not date from ancient 
times. The argument relied upon by Arngrimr Jonsson has been 
often quoted; yet it appears far from satisfactory. The author is 
well aware of the difficulties to be encountered when supple- 
menting the imperfect relation, and the " weight of tradition and 
historical circumstances " which lies in the way; he can hardly 
flatter himself with having succeeded, but he hopes that he has 
shown a case worthy of being taken in hand by some scholar 
who has leisure and inclination for the task. 

The first modern writer who presumed to differ from the 
Landnamabok was, it is believed, Pontanus the Dane (loc. cit., 
Amstelodami, a.d. 1631, folio, p. 754). He gives the following 
extracts from the Bull of Pope Gregory IV., which he dates from 
A.D. 835, or thirty-nine years before the official date of discovery 

"Ipsum filium nostrum, jam dictum Ansgarium et successores ejus legates in 
omnibus circumquaque gentibus Danorum, Sueonum, Norvagorum, Farrise, 

^ i.e., Land-nim- (Germ, nehmen, "Corporal Nym," and modern slang, *'to 
nim") book. 


Groenlandensium, Helsingelandorum, Islandorum, Scritifindorum, Slavorum ; 
necnon omninm Septentrionalium et orientalium nationum quocunque modo 
nominentur, delegamus et posito capite et pectori, super corpus et confessionem 
Sancti Petri Apostoli sibi suisque successoribus vicum nostram perpetuo retin- 
endam, publicamque evangelizandi tribuimus auctoritatem, " etc. , etc. 

Presently Pontanus quotes the following words from the 
Prsecept of King Louis the Mild (regn. a.d. 814-840), son of 
Charlemagne, a document bearing date the year before the papal 
Bull {i.e., A.D. 834) : 

"Idcirco Sanctse Dei Ecclesise filiis praesentibus scilicet et futuris, certum esse 
volumus, qualiter diving ordinante gratia, nostris in diebus, Aquilonalibus in 
partibus, scilicet, in gentibus Danorum, Sueonum, Norvagorum, Farrise, Groen- 
landorum, Helsinglandorum, Scritofinnorum, et omnium Septentrionalium et 
orientalium nationum magnum cselestis gratia predicationis sive acquistionis pate- 
ficit ostium, ita ut multitude hinc inde ad fidem Christi conversa, mysteria cselestia 
ecclesiasticaque subsidia desiderabiliter expetaret, unde Domino Deo nostro 
laudes immensas persolventes extoUimus, qui nostris temporibus et studiis Sanctam 
Ecclesiam, sponsam videlicet suam, in locis ignotis sinit dilatari ac patefieri," 

Here it is possible that " Greenland," being mentioned with 
the islands and terra firma of Europe, may be the name of some 
district in the Scandinavian peninsula, and it has been suggested 
that " Iceland " may occur under similar conditions. In the 
Zeni Voyages, the Shetlands are called Estlanda, Eslanda, and 
Islande. But while a southern Shetland kept its place, the 
Shetlands were moved up to the north-east coast of Iceland, like 
the Orkneys to the south-east. He, therefore, who discovered the 
northern Shetlands, would also discover Iceland. 

Evidently the first point is to consult an official copy of the 
Gregorian Bull referred to by Pontanus. The Very Eev. Father 
O'Callaghan, Principal of the English College, Eome, obliged the 
author with the following full extract : 


Fromthe First Volume of the Bullarium Romanum, Printed at Turin, 1857. 

Pages 279, 280. 

" Confirmatio Sanctse Sedis Hamburgensis in ultima Saxonise parti trans Albiam; 
cui Ecclesise Anscbarius prseficitur Archiepiscopus, datoque ei pallio, sibi subjectis 
gentibus apostolicse sedis legatus constituitur. ^ 

^ Cointius Annal. Benedict, tom. viii., et BoUandus die 3 febr. in Comment, 
praevio ad vitam S. Anscharii, § xvii., Copenhagen, 1857. 



" Carolus Magnus Saxones ad Christi fidem perduxit — Hambiirgensem sedem 
episcopalem constitiiit. — Anscliarius^ et successores Hamburgenses arclnepiscopi 
legati sedis apostolicse apud Danos, Sveones, Slavos, etc., delegantur. — Sedes 
Hamburg, vulgo d. arcbiepiscopalis efficitur. — Jus eligendi archiepiscopos penes 
Palatines principes. — Anathema contra decreti hujus temeratores. — Pallium 
Anscliario et successoribus. — Ad eundem Anscharium saluberrimse adhortationes. 

'* Gregorius episcopus servus servorum Dei Omnium fidelium dinoscentise certum Carolus Mag- 

esse volumus, qualiter beatfe memorise prtecellentissimus rex Karolus, tempore ad Christi 

prjedecessorum nostrorum, divino afflatus spiritu, gentem Saxonum sacro cultui ^'uxl^ ^^^ 

subdidit, iugumque Christi, quod suave, ac leve est, adusque terminos Danorum 

sive Slavorum, corda ferocia perdomans docuit, ultimamque regni ipsius partem 

trans Albiam inter mortifera Paganorum pericula constitutam, videlicet ne ad 

ritum relaberetur Gentilium, vel etiam quia lucrandis adhuc gentibus aptissima Hamburgen- 

videbatur, proprio episcopali vigore fundare decreverat. Sed quia mors effectum episcopalem 

prohibuerat, succedente ejus prtecellentissimo filio Hludewico imperatore Augusto, constituit. 

pium studium sacri genitoris sui efficaciter implevit. Quae ratio nobis per vener- 

abiles Ratoldum, sive Bernoldum episcopos, necnon et Geroldum comitem, vel 

missum venerabilem relata est confirmanda. Nos igitur omnem ibi Deo dignam 

statutam providentiam cognoscentes, instructi etiam praesentia fratris filiique 

nostri Anscharii primi Hordalbingorum archiepiscopi, per manus Drogonis 

Metensis episcopi consecrati, sanctum studium magnorum imperatorum, tam 

praesenti auctoritate, quam etiam pallii datione, more prcedecessorum nostrorum 

roborare decrevimus ; quatenus tanta auctoritate fundatus praedictus filius noster, 

eiusque successores lucrandis plebibus insistentes, adversus tentamenta diaboli , , . 
. \ ^ ' Anschanus 

validiores existant, ^ ipsumque filium nostruufi iam dictum Anscharium, et succes- et succes- 
sores eius legates in omnibus circumquoque gentibus Danoricyn, Sveonum, North- bm^^nses*" 

weorum, Farrice, Gronlandan, Halsiqolandan, Islandan, Scridevindum, Slavorum, archiep. 

. . \. . -.. . 7 legati Sedis 

oiec non omnium scptcntrionalium, et orientalium nationum quocumque modo Apostoiicse 

nominatarum delegamus, una cum Elbone Remensi archicpiscopo ; statuente, ante gP"^ ^^"yi^' 

corpus et confessionem Sancti Petri, publicam evangelizandi tribuimus auctoritaterti, vos, etc., 

ipsamque sedem Nordalbingorum, Hammaburg dictam, in onore Salvatoris, sanctae- ^ ^^^" "'' 

. ^.^ , •. • • . ? . ^'. ^ ' . Sedes Ham- 

(j^ue ems, et mteraeratae genitricis semper virginis Mariae consecratam, archiepisco- burg, vuleo 

])alem deinceps esse decernimus. Consecrationem vero succedentium sacerdotum, ^- ^^55^^^P^^.' 
i^ r 5 copahs eftici- 

donec consecrantium numerus ex gentibus augeatur, sacrae Palatinae providentiae tur. 

interim committimus. Strenui vero praedicatoris persona, tantoque officio apta Jus eligendi 

in successione semper eligatur : omnia vero a venerabili principe ad hoc Deo pos penes 

dignum officium deputata, nostra etiam auctoritate pia eius vota firmamus : om- i'a'atinos 
. , .... principes. 

nemque resistentem, vel contradicentem atque piis nostris studiis his quolibet ^nathei 

raodo insidiantem, anathematis mucrone percutimus, atque perpetua ultione reum contra decre- 

diabolica sorte damnamus, ut culmen apostolicum more praedecessorum nostrorum, temeratores. 

causamque Dei pio affectu zelantesabadversishincinde partibus tutius muniamur. 

Et quia te, carissime fili Anschari, divina dementia nova in sede primum disposuit Pallium 

et successo- 
^ *' The Apostle of the North," a monk from the monastery of New Corvey, in 
Westphalia, who introduced Christianity to Denmark about a.d. 827. 

^ The words in italics are those quoted with variants by Pontanus, who, 
however, has. added nothing to nor has he taken aught from the sense. 
VOL. I. F 


esse arcliiepiscopuin, nos quoque pallio tibi ad missarum solemnia celebranda 
tribuimus, quod tibi in diebus tuis, uti et Ecclesise tuse perpetuo statu manenti- 
bus privilegiis uti largimur. Idcirco huius indumenti honor morum a te vivacitate 
servandus est : si ergo pastores ovium sole, geluque pro gregis sui custodia, neque 
ex eis aut errando pereat, aut ferinis lanianda morsibus rapiatur, oculis semper 
vigilantibus circumspectant, quanto sudore, quantaque cura debeamus esse per- 
vigiles, nos qui pastores animarum dicimur attendamus. Et ne susceptum officium 
in terrenis negotiis aliquatenus implicare debeas ammonemus. Vita itaque tua 
filiis tuis sit via ; in ipsa si qua fortitudo illis inest, dirigant, in ea quod imitentur 
aspiciant ; in ipsa se semper considerando proficiant, ut tuum post Deuni videatur 
esse bonum, quod vixerint. Cor ergo tuum neque prospera, quae temporaliter 
blandiuntur, extollant, neque adversa deiiciant ; districtum mali cognoscent, 
pium benevoli sentiant. Insontem apud te culpabilem malitia aliena non faciat, 
reum gi-atia excuset ; viduis, ac pupillis iniuste oppressis defensio tua subveniat. 
Ecce, frater carissime, inter multa alia ista non sacerdotii, ista sunt pallii, quse si 
studiose servaveris, quod foris accepisse ostenderis, intus habebis. Sancta 
Trinitas fraternitatem tuam diu conservare dignetur incolumem, atque post buius 
sjBculi amaritudinem ad perpetuani perducat beatitudinem. Amen." ^ 

Father O'Callaglian adds : 

" I have carefully examined the fourth volume of the Bullandists, and find that 
they agree with Mabillon in omitting mention of Iceland and Greenland in their 
version of the Bull. ^ The introductory commentary to the Life of St Anscharius 
(§ xii,), there given under the date of February 3, will suggest an explanation of 
the way in which the interpolation seems to have occurred." 

The quotation of Mabillon (Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Bene- 
dicti, Sseculi Quarti, Pars Prima, 123, 124, foL, Venetiis, 1738) is 
as follows : 


" Ipsumque filium nostrum, jam dictum Ansgariam Legatum in omnibus cir- 
cumquaque gentibus Sueonum sive Danorum [omitting the ' Norvagoru7n, Farrice, 
Groenlandensiitm, Helsingelandorum, Islandorum, Scritifindorum, ' of Pontanus] 
nee non etiam Slavorum [omitting ^nec non omnium Scptentrionalium et orientalium 
nationum, quocunque mode noyninentur, delegamus et posito capite et pectori,^ of 
Pontanus], vel in caiteris ubicunque illis partibus constitutis divina pietas ostium 
aperuerit, una cum Eboni Rhemensi archiepiscopo, statuentes ante corpus et 
confessionem Sancti Petri publicam evangelizandi tribuimus auctoritatem." 

Furthermore, the Acta Sanctorum thus shortens the " Prsecep- 
tum Ludovici Imperatoris " : 

1 Data est hsec bulla post annum 834, quamvis ab aliquibus et prsesertim a 
Pontano in rebus Danicis eo anno adscribatur. 

2 Here, again, the question is simply, "Has the Bull been tampered with or 
not?" It would evidently be desirable to consult the earliest copies still extant, 
but unfortunately the author has no j)Ower of so doing at present. The Bull of 
Pope Nicholas V. (a.d. 1448) should also be carefully inspected. See p. 84. 


" Idcirco Sanctse Dei Ecclesise filiis, presentibus scilicet et fiaturis, certum esse 
volumus, qiialiter divina ordinante gratia nostris in diebus, Aquilonalibus in parti- 
bus, in gente videlicet Danorum sive Sueonum [omitting the ' Norvacjoru7)i, Farrice, 
Groenlandorum, Helsinglarulorum, Scritofinnorum, et omniuin Septentrionaliuiri et 
orientalium nationum,^ of Pontaiius] magnum cselestis gratia prsedicationis sive 
acquisitionis patefecit ostium." 

It is curious to remark that tlie same tampering has been 
attributed to the Prsecept as to the Bull, and it is not easy to 
divine the mode in which the double fraud was so successfully 

Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin, who owns to " grave doubts about the 
historical value of Danish chronicles recording dates of this 
period," supplies the following excerpts from the " Vita Sancti 
Anskarii, a Eimberto " (Archbishop of Hamburg) " et alio disci- 
pulo Anskarii conscripta " (before a.d. 876), " edidit C. F. Dahl- 
mann. Prof. Gottingen." The editor's preface contains these 
words of 

" In edenda Anscharii vita hi codices et editiones subsidio fuerunt. 

**(2.) Codex Vicilini . . . textum exhibet ex eodem limpido quidem fonte manan- 
tem, sed consulta opera ita mutilatum et interdum interpolatum, ut facile suspi- 
ceris, ambitionem insatiabilem Adalberti archiepiscopi Bremensis, qui sub Henrico 
IV. imperatore patriarchatum septentrionis machinabatur, in hac fraude versatam. 
Recisa enim sunt, et ita quidem recisa, ut plane nihil deesse videatur, omnia, 
quae de Ebonis, archiepiscopi Remensis, meritiis et legationis ejus in septentri- 
onem susceptse privilegiis verissime Rimbertus ex ore Anscharii excerpta scripsit, 
deest amissa cella Turholt, disceptatio interdioceses Bremensem et Verdensem 
unacum levamento damni quod Verdensis accepit, verbo omnia, quse fideliter 
narrata ecclesise Bremensi detrimentum facere possent; contra addita dominatui 
Bremensi Islandia, quam Hibernicis quidem Anscharii aetate jam innotuisse 
nuper didicimus e Dicuilo, at plane tunc ignota Scandinavis et Germanis, seque 
ac Groenlandia, Fseroese insu.l8e, reliquseque frauduleuter inculcatse remotissimse 


** Cap. 13. Et ut hsec omnia perpetuum suae stabilitatis retinerent vigorem, eum 
honorabiliter ad sedem direxit apostolicam, et per missos suos venerabiles Ber- 
noldum et Ratoldum episcopos ac Geroldum illustrissimum comitem omnem hanc 
rationem sanctissimo papae Gregorio intimari fecit confirmandam. Quod etiam ipse 
tam decreti sui auctoritate, quam etiam pallii donatione, more praedecessorum suo- 
rum roboravit, atque ipsum in praesentia constitutum legatum in omnibus circum- 
quaque gentibus Sueonum sive Danorum, nex non etiam Slavorum, aliarumque in 
aquilonis partibus gentium constitutarunt, unacum Ebone Remensi archiepiscopo, 


qui ipsam legationem ante susceperat, delegavit : et ante corpus et confessionem 
Sancti Petri apostoli publicam evangelizandi tribuit auctoritatem. " 


" Codex Vicilini hunc ita interpolatum exhibet locum, ut sublata plane Ebonis 
mentione, in majorera ecclesise Hammaburgensis gloriam nomina septentrionalium 
tunc inaudita adsuant, qupe fraus etiam latins serpsit interpolationibus ipsius bullae 
papjB Gregorii : * Gentibus Sueonum, Danorum, Farrise, Gronlondon, Islondon, 
Scrideuindun, Slauorum, nee non omnium septentrionalium et orientalium natio- 
num quocunque modo nominatarum delegauit. Et posito capite et pectore super 
corpus et confessionem Sancti Petri apostoli, sibi suisque successoribus vicem 
suam perpetuo retinendam publicamque evangelizandi tribuit auctoritatem' (Cod. 
Vicilinus). Manifesta utique interpolationum hujus loci et bullae papalis fraus, 
quam ab Adalberto archiepiscopo, Adami Breniensi sequali, ad quem extremi 
venerunt Islandi, etc., profectam, cum Langebekio suspicamur" (G. H. Pertz, 
Monumenta Germanise Historica, torn, ii., p. 699). 

VITA S. RIMBERTI (Ex Codice Vicilino). 
Edidit G. H. Pertz. 

" Imperator Hludowicus . . . extremam plagam aqiiilonarem ejusdem pro- 
vincise ad hoc reservaverit, ut ibidem archiepiscopalis construeretur sedes, unde 
prsedicatio verbi Dei finitimis fieret populis, Suenonum, Danorum, Norweorum, 
Farriae, Gronlandan, Islandan, Scridivindan, Slavorum, nee non omnium septen- 
trionalium," etc. 

*' ' Norweorum — Scridivindan,' haec pro supposititiis babet Henscbenius. Sed 
obstant diplomata ab imperatoribus summisque pontificibus ecclesise Hamburgensi 
concessa. 1. Hludowicus I. post Danes et Sueones etiam * gentes Norweorum, 
Farriae, Gronlandon, Halsingalandon, Islandon, Scridevindan, Slavorum et om- 
nium septentrionalium et orientalium nationum' addit. 2. Gregorii IV. diploma 
eadem adjicit. 3. Charta Johannis X. pro Unni archiepiscopo a. 915 Norweos, 
Islandon, Scridevindon, Gronlandon. 4. Benedictus IX. in charta Adalberto 
archiepiscopo a. 1042 aut 1043 concessa * Hislandicorum et omnium insularum 
his regnis adjacentium.' 5. Victor II. in diplomate a. 1055, Oct. 29, Islandon, 
Scridivindan, Gronlandon; et 6. Innocentius II., a. 1133, d. Mail 27, Farria, 
Gronlandon, Halsingaldia, Island, Scridivindan et Slavorem mentionem inje- 
cerunt. Haec aliaque ejus ecclesiae diplomata in codicibus diversis, uno, quem 
ante oculos liabeo, Saeculi XIII. . . . altero Philippi Caesaris quem codici 
Vicelini valde similem fuisse constat, occurrunt ; quorum de fide eo saltern non 
dubitare possumus, quod alia diplomata quae hodie supersunt eorum exemplis hie 
adservatis congruunt. Igitur aut non unum sed quinque studio Adalberti archi- 
episcopi falsata credas, et tunc hand intelligeretur, cur Adalbertus multo majorem 
numerum reliquorum ecclesise suae privilegiorum, ubi tantum de Danis, Sueonibus 
et Norweis aliisque septentrionalibus et occidentalibus barbaris nationibus sermo 
est, intactum reliquerit ; — aut omnia sana, et locum hunc ex charta Hludowici I. 
sincera in posteras omnes emanasse statuendum est. ..." (G. H. Pertz, 
Monumenta Germaniae Historica, tom. ii., p. 765). 


Mr J6n A. Hjaltalin, who " admits that the subject is not fully 
cleared up," adds : 

'* We have only to do with the three documents first mentioned. (See note 1, 
p. 86.) Unless a copy of the letter of Ludvig and the Bull of Gregory, of a date 
anterior to the times of Adalbert, can be produced, I do not see any impossibility 
in all the copies mentioned, the earliest of which dates from the thirteenth century, 
being derived from a copy falsified by Bishop Adalbert ; at any rate, if all the copies 
can be derived from a true one, as Dr Pertz seems to think, they can as well be 
derived from a false one. The Bullarium does not help us (we have only the older 
ones, not that of 834), as it does not state from what MS. the Bull is printed. 
But even if the Bull is proved true, which only can be done by producing the 
original, or at least a copy anterior to Bishop Adalbert, it would hardly establish 
the fact that Iceland was known by that name prior to its Norwegian discovery ; 
for many of the names mentioned in these documents, such as Gronlondon, Scri- 
devindon, and Halsingaldia, are perverted Norwegian districts, and I should be 
inclined to look upon Islandon in the same way. But, in my own mind, I am 
perfectly satisfied that Professor Dahlmann is right in pronouncing the inter- 
polated passages as forgeries. In this case I prefer his judgment to that of Dr 
Pertz, as he has proved his intimate acquaintance with the subject in his emi- 
nently critical ' History of Denmark.' " 

The following quotation from LaPeyrere's "Account of Iceland/' 
dated Copenhagen, December 18, 1644, and addressed to M. de la 
Mothe de Vayer (Churchill's Coll., vol. ii.), is quoted because it 
well expresses the opinion adverse to that generally received. 
Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin remarks of this amusing Prench traveller : 

" Peyrere is no authority, either in this or in other statements. He wrote what 
he had been able hurriedly to gather together from Arngrimr Jonsson and Blef- 
kenius, aided by conversation with sundry learned men in Copenhagen, and he 
confesses that he had scarcely time to peruse the writings of 'Angrim Jonas.' 
Consequently his account abounds in inaccuracies and blunders. It is evident 
that he had never heard of the Landnamabok, as he complains of Arngrim's not 
stating when Kalman and other Irish settlers came to Iceland. I have also grave 
doubts about his Danish chronicles. Arngrimr refutes Pontanus in his ' Specimen 
Islandise Historicum ; ' and Pontanus should have mentioned where he found his 
quotation, especially as it militates against everything that is known in the 

We may, however, be certain that in the following extract La 
Peyrere expresses the opinions popular at Copenhagen in the 
seventeenth century : 

" Angrim Jonas,^ as it seems, would not be so averse, to allow that Iseland is 
the same with the Ancient Thule, provided he could be convinced, that that Isle was 

^ In p, 432 (loc. cit.) we are told that Angrim Jonas is " erroneously call'd 
Arngrim by some " — it need hardly be said that the real name is Arngrimr Jonsson. 

86 ULTIMA thule; or, 

inhabited before the time of Ingulph; wherefore, tho' I have said enough upon 
this Head for the Satisfaction of unbyass'd Persons ; yet will I not think it beyond 
the purpose, to alledge some undeniable Reasons for the Proof thereof, viz. , That 
Iseland was Inhabited before that time. I have two Chronicles of Greenland 
written in Danish, one in Verse, the other in Prose. That written in Verse, 
begins with the year 770, when it says Greenland was first discovered. The 
other assures us, That the Person, that went first from Norway into Greenland 
pass'd through Iseland, and tells us, expressly, That Iseland was Inhabited at 
that time ; whence it is evident, that Iseland was not first of all Inhabited in 
the year 874." 

^^ Angrim Jonas will perhaps object, That my Danish Chronicles don't agree 
with that of Iseland, which says. That Greenland was not discovered till the year 
982 ; nor inhabited till 986. But I must tell him. That my Danish Chronicles are 
founded upon the Authority of Ansgarius, a great Prelate, a Native of France, 
who has been acknowledged the first Apostle of the Northern World. He was 
made Archbishop of Hamhorough, by Lewis the Mild, his Jurisdiction extended 
from the River Ulbe, all over the Frozen Sea ; the Emperor's Patent, constituting 
the said Ansgarius the first Archbishop of Hamhorough, are dated in the year 834, 
and were confirmed by Pope Gregory IV. 's Bull in 835. The true Copy, both of 
the Patent and of the Bull, are to be seen in the 4th Book of Pontanus his 
Danish History of the year 834, where it is expressly said in the Patent, That the 
Gates of the Gospel are set open, and that Jesus Christ had been revealed both in 
Iceland and Greenland ; for which the Emperor gives his most humble Thanks to 

" Two Inferences are to be made from thence : First, That Iseland was inhabited 
by Christians in the year 834, and consequently 40 years before the arrival of 
Ingulph there : Secondly, That Greenland was inhabited by Christians in the 
same year, 834. Which agrees with my Danish Chronicle, where the first discovery 
of Greenland is fix'd to the year 770.^ Angrim Jonas being put to a nonplus, 
tells us. That he questions the authority of the Bull of Gregory IV. alledged by 
Pontanus, which he would fain make us believe, is supposititious ; but to be plain 
with him, I think he has taken a Notion of maintaining the Credit of his Native 
Country, by adhering too strictly to the Authority of its Chronicles ; whereas it 
would have been more for his Reputation, not to have insisted so much upon that 
Authority, than to rob this Isle of the glory of its Antiquity ; who is so ignorant, 
as not to know, that the Age wherein Ingulph lived, was not very barbarous ? The 
Goths having carried the same together with their Arms throughout all Europe; 
whoever should go about to persuade me, into a Belief of all what is inserted in 
the Ancient Chronicles of these barbarous Ages, might as soon make me believe the 

^ Popular history, it has been seen, attributes the exploration to Eirikr RauS 
(Eric the Red) in a.d. 982, some five centuries before the days of Columbus. 
Captain Graah, of whom more presently, speaks of a papal Bull by Nicholas V., 
who in A.D. 1448 declares Christianity in Greenland to date from 600 years back, 
thus removing the colonisation to a.d. 848. We have ample materials for de- 
termining the exact limits of the Northmen's explorations by their precising the 
length of the day. For instance, at VInland the sun at the winter solstice was 
above the horizon from Dagmal (7.30 a.m.) to Eykt (4.30 P.M.), which gives nine 
hours = N. lat. 41°. 


Eomances of Oger the Dane, or the Four Sons of Aymon, of the Archbishop of 
Turpin, and other such like nonsensical Stories relating to the same time. " 

A fair collateral testimony is given by that conscientious 
writer, Uno Von Troil (p. 224) : 

*' Thus I go further back with regard to the eruptions of fire in Iceland than 
the common tradition among the vulgar people there, who believe that the first 
inhabitants of the country, whom they suppose to have been Christians and 
Irishmen, were so much oppressed by the ^Norwegian colonists, that they were 
forced to leave the country, to which they first set fire to revenge themselves. " 

And Iceland still contains many traces of its old colonists — 
Welsh, Hebridian, and Irish. The places occupied by the former 
are known by the general term Kumbravagr. Arngrim Jonsson 
mentions one Kalman from the Hebrides (Land. II. i. 51), who 
first settled in Kalmanstunga or "Doab" of Kalman, the western 
part of Iceland ; and Patrick (Patrekr Biskup, Land. L xii. 23), 
a Hebridian bishop, is known to history as having sent the 
materials of a chapel, which was afterwards built at the base of 
the Esja mountain ; hence PatreksfjorS in the north - west. 
The signs of the Irish are most numerous,^ and possibly they 
supplied " Eaven Floki " with food during the two years which 
he passed in the far north. Such are Briann or Bran, Melkorka, 
Nial or Njall, Konall (Connell), Kormak and Kjartan, Iraa 
(Irish Eiver) ; the Irafell, or Irish fell, in the Kjosar Sysla ; and 
the IrarbuSr, or Irish booths, in the HvammsfjorS. Hence we 
can explain the fables of history which have been regarded as 
simple fabrications. Geoffrey of Monmouth makes Prince 
Arthur, in a.d. 517, subdue Iceland with an army of 60,000 
men. Hence, too, another writer attributes its recovery to 
Malgo, king of Britain ; whilst a third alludes to the mixture of 
Finns and Scandinavians before the official rediscovery of the 

^ The Dictionary (iii, 780) gives forty-nine Keltic names in the Landnamabok 
only, neglecting tlie Orkneyinga, or larla, Saga, and the Njala, 

^ Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin remarks : "The large number of Irish settlers in Iceland 
after Ingolf do not prove anything concerning a previous settlement. No one 
denies that Iceland was visited by the Irish previous to the Norwegian discovery. 
No proofs, however, have been as yet brought forward to show that a settlement 
was made more extensive than that spoken of in Landnamabok, and by Ari Frodi. 
The great bulk of the settlers were Norwegians; the rest were Danes, Swedes, and 
Irishmen." (See Landnamabok ; liambert, ' Apx^-iovofxia, fol. 137, p. 2; and Ency- 
clopedic des Gens du Monde, vol. ii., p. 60.) ; 


Within sixty years after the first settlement by the Northmen, 
the whole was inhabited; and, writes Uno Von Troil (p. 64), 
" King Harold, who did not contribute a little towards it by his 
tyrannical treatment of the petty kings and lords in Norway, 
was oblicfed at last to issue an order, that no one should sail to 
Iceland without paying four ounces of fine silver to the Crown, 
in order to stop those continual emigrations, which weakened 
his kingdom." The stock phrase of the Landnamabok (ii. 12, 92) 
is, " Fyrir ofriki Haralldar Konungs " — " For the overbearing of 
King Harold." But posterity has done justice to Pulchricomus, 
the Fair-haired Jarl, who, following the example of Egbert, 
brought under a single sceptre the quasi-independent reguli and 
heads of clans : the latter remind us of nothing more than the 
thousand kinglets, each with a family all kinglets, the ridiculous 
King Boys and King Pepples of Western Africa. 

Before the tenth century had reached its half-way period, the 
Norwegians had fully peopled the island with not less, perhaps, 
than 50,000 souls. A census taken about a.d. 1100, numbered 
the franklins who had to pay Thing-tax at 4500, without includ- 
ing cotters and proletarians. The chiefs, who were also the 
priests, lived each upon his own " Landnam," or lot, which per- 
haps he had seized from another. Once more like little kings, 
they intermarried ; they left their possessions to their families ; 
they assigned lands to new comers; and they raised revenue 
from their clients and freedmen, serfs and slaves. They brought 
with their language and religion their customs and records ; they 
claimed all the influence which could be commanded by strength 
and valour, birth and wealth ; and they had no common bonds 
of union save race and religion. The three castes were sharply 
distinguished, like the four of the Hindtis. The first was the 
GoSi, priest and lord, including a rare Jarl, and Hersir (baron). 
The two latter, descended from Hersir and Erna, are described 
like our " Barbarians," as having fair hair, clear complexions, 
and fine piercing eyes : their duties in life were riding, hunting, 
and fighting. Secondly came the progeny of Afi and Amma ; 
the Thanes, Churls, Karls, or free peasants : their florid, red-haired 
sons were Stiffbeard, Landholder, Husbandman, and Smith ; and 
their daughters, Prettyface, Swanlike, Blithespeech, and Chatter- 


box. Last in the list were the Thralls, begotten by Thr?el, son 
of Ai and Eclda, upon Thy : for offspring they had Plumpy, 
Stumpy, Frousy, Homespun, Sootyface, and Slowpace, the latter 
a very fruitful parent; and their daughters were Busybody, 
Cranefoot, Smokeynose, and Tearclout. 

But Iceland was already too populous for this " leonine " state 
of society. In the brave old days when ancient mariners were 
ancient thieves, the roving islandry throve by piracy and dis- 
covery ; but the settled Udallers (0(5alsmenn) must have felt that 
some tie was necessary for the body politic. The HofGingja-stjorn, 
or aristocratic republic, was initiated by the establishment of the 
Althing,^ and by the adoption of tTlfljot's oral law in a.d. 929-930. 
Tliis annual assembly, at once legislative and judicial, was 
supreme over the local " Things," ^ comitia or meetings which, 
independent of one another, and unchecked by a supreme court, 
could not do justice between rival nobles and franklins. With 
the Althing was introduced a kind of President, under whom 
the Icelandic commonwealth at once assumed shape and form. 
His title was LogsogumaSr, or Sayer of the Law, and his func- 
tions resembled in important points the commoner, who began 
in A.D. 1377, to speak to (and not for) our Lower House. ^ 

1 Some foreigners erroneously write for Althingi, " Allthing, " which would be 
pronounced Atl- or Adl-thing. Al- is from allr, all, the highest possible degree, 
e.ff,, Al-mattigr, Almighty. All- is right or very, e.g., All-vitr, right clever 
(Cleasby). The following is a synopsis of the most important events in the 
history of this famous Diet : 

A.D. 965. Reform (bill) carried by Thord Gellir, who organised the courts and 

settled the political divisions of Iceland. 
,, 1004. Institution of the Fifth Court (of Appeal). 

,, 1024. Repudiation of the King of Norway's attempt to annex Iceland. 
,, 1096. Tlund or tithes introduced. 
,, 1117-18. The laws codified, written down, and adopted by the Althing. This 

code was afterwards called Gragas. 
,, 1262-64. Submission to the King of Norway. 
,, 1272. Second written code (Jarn-siSa) introduced. 
,, 1280 (?). Third written code (Jons-bok) introduced. 

2 Traces of some two hundred Things remain in the "Standing Stones " of Great 
Britain. Mr Dasent, from whose study of the Iceland republic (Introduction, etc., 
Burnt Njal, pp. li.-lxvii.) these lines are abridged, shows our meeting to be " Mot- 
Thing," a public gathering of the district freeholders: as Husting is "House- 
Thing," an assembly of householders. In Norwaj'- the Things were founded by 
Hakon, son of Harold Fair-hair, and the conquest over the Jarls was at once 
followed by the constitution. 

^ Sir Thomas Hungerford in 1377 was the first Speaker, and Sir John Busby in 
1394 was the first Speaker formally presented for royal approval. These ofiicials 
were the mouth-piece of the House, and by no means so called on the lucus-a- 
non-lucendo principle. 


Still Justice walked pede claudo. All suits were to be pled in 
the Thing nearest the spot where the cause of action arose, and 
plaintiffs perforce sought redress in the enemy's country, where 
violence was ready to hand. Thord Gellir, about a generation 
afterwards, caused the island to be divided into Quadrants, or 
Tetrads (FjorSungr), and each of these to be subdivided into 
ThriSjungr (" ridings"), three judicial circles (Thing- soknir), whose 
inhabitants were bound to appear at a common meeting. Causes 
were set on foot at the Spring -Thing (Var-Thing), thence they 
were carried in appeal to the Quadrant-Thing (FjorSunga-Thing), 
which must not be confounded with the Quadrant courts (Fjor- 
Sungsdomar) at the Althing ; and, finally, if judged fit, to the 
Diet. Moreover, in each subdivision were established three chief 
temples (HofuShof), corresponding with our mother or parish 
churches, to which the most powerful Udallers holding priest- 
hoods (GoSorS) were appointed. We shall presently find traces 
of this politico-religious supremacy of the pontiff in the parson 
of the nineteenth century. 

Thus three priesthoods made one local Thing, three local 
Things one Quadrant -Thing, and four Quadrant -Things one 
Althing, — a grand total of thirty-six tribunals recognised by the 
Eespublica. Every franklin was obliged to declare his allegiance 
to one of the priests, and to determine the community of which 
he was a member. 

The next step was to separate the judicial from the legislative 
and executive attributes of the Diet. Hitherto there had been 
but one body at the Althing, the Log-retta,^ combining the three 
functions. It now became exclusively legislative, the supreme 
power in the land, presided over by the Speaker, and consisting 
of forty-eight GoSar, who controlled all laws and licences. The 
judicial functions were distributed amongst the four FjorGungs- 

^ The word is liable to misapprehension. It is used of the place as well as of 
the body sitting there ; of the Sacred Circle (Ve-bond) as well as of the lawmen 
who occupied it. Moreover, under the Commonwealth, it was the legislative 
session that met on the Log -berg ; and after the union with Norway it was the 
public court of law at the Althing considerably modified. The term is also vari- 
ously derived from Rett, a fence, a sheep-fold; or from AS retta log, to right 
(or make right) the law (Cleasby). Moreover, the Log -berg (Hill of Laws) of 
the Althing was called Thing-brekka (Parliament brink, or high place) at the local 


domar or Quadrant-courts of the chief assembly. Each of these 
took charge of the suits which, belonging to its division, were 
carried before the Althing. 

Presently the State became master of the Church. The priest- 
hoods being limited to thirty-six, and new temples not being re- 
cognised by, nor represented in, the assembly, the old institutions 
would look rather to the central power than to their subjects. 
The Thingmen of the three established priesthoods, by the orders 
of the Diet, were gradually made to form one Vernal-court (Var- 
Thing), and the Quadrant -Things became obsolete. Thus there 
was more of justice for suitors than when they were compelled to 
appear before a single priest and his dependants or parishioners. 

The Vernal Thing, though only a tribunal of first instance 
from which an appeal lay, became an Althing on a small scale. 
Each had its Thingbrekka, or Hill of Laws, whence notices were 
given ; its LogmaSr,^ lagman, or lawman, who " said " the law 
from memory, and its general assemblies. Each also of the three 
priests, who presided in turn, named three judges, after the recog- 
nised principle, " three twelves must judge all suits ;" and the 
three arbiters were bound to be unanimous. In addition to these 
courts were the tribunals called Autumn Leets (LeiS),^ held a 
fortnight after the dissolution of the Diet ; here the calendar of 
the current year, and the new laws and licences of the past 
Althing, were published. 

Under the new system the Court of Laws contained 39 priests 
(3 X 12, 4- 3 for the Northlanders' Quadrant^); and, to counter- 
balance the three clerical extras, three laymen were chosen from 
each of the other Tetrads by the priests who represented it. 
Thus the whole number on the bench was 48 (39 -f 9), and each 

^ Log (i.e., " laws," used only in the plural; from "lag," a lay, layer, stratum) 
also signified, the legal community or State. 

2 The Anglo-Saxon Leode, probably akin to June (serra Li?5a) and July (seftera 
LiSa); the Irish Fo-leith, and our modern " leet, " properly the law-court of the 
hundred. In the Saga times (tenth century) the LeiS was a kind of county as- 
sembly ; during the rule of the Gragas (twelfth and thirteenth centuries), the LeiS 
was held where the Var-Thing used to sit, in common with all the three GoSar 
of the Quarter (Sam-leiS). 

^ The Northlanders, by a provincial arrangement which the central authority 
hardly recognised, claimed four instead of three judicial circles (Tliing-soknir). 
The reason was, that the heads of houses east of the EyjafjorS and west of the 
SkagafjorS, whose Quadrant-Things lay in the middle of the Tetrad, refused to 
ride so far. 


of the 48 had two assessors. The Law Court, therefore, con- 
tained 144 (48 X 3) eqnal votes, and, including the Speaker, 145 
voices. In later times the two bishops were added. 

The four Quadrant Courts of the Althing (FjorSungsdomar) 
each numbered thirty-six judges, named as usual by the priest 
out of the frequenters of his Thing : thus w^e find again the law 
of three twelves, and the total of 144. Finally, in a.d. 1004, 
about forty years after the institution of the four, was added the 
Fimtar-domr, or Fifth (High) Court of Appeal or Cassation, 
suggested by Njall Thorgeirsson, the hero of the "Nials-burning."^ 

Such was the artificial and complicated system which sprung 
from the litigious nature of the N^orthern man. It was a 
ponderous machine for the wants of some 50,000 souls, and 
its civilised organisation contrasts strongly with the rude 
appliances by which it was carried out, the barren wart and 
the rough circle of " standing stones " on the hill-top where 
the sessions took place. 

A mighty change came over the island mind when Olafr 
Tryggvason (Olaf I., Trusty- son, killed during the same year at 
the battle of Svoldur) induced, in A.D. 1000, the Althing to 
accept Christianity as the national religion.^ The old pagan 
creed had become age-decrepit. After producing the Voluspa, 
a poem, grand, noble, and ennobling in general conception, as 
it is beautiful and perfect in all its parts, it engendered such 
monstrous growths as the FjoUvinnsmal (Fiolvith's Lay), a 

1 Nat. A.D. 930; converted to Christianity, 998, and murdered, 1014. Cleasby 
derives '' Fimtar " from " Fimt," the heathen week, a pentad or five days ; whilst 
the Swedish " Femt," a court before which one has to appear a " fimt " from the 
citation, seems to have floated before the minds of the founders. 

2 Fat and ferocious Olafr Helgi (Olaf II., or the Saint), when succeeding to the 
throne of Norway, doomed to death and slavery, to exile and confiscation, all 
who opposed the new faith. Tlie blood of martyred pagans was not the seed of 
their Church ; and persecution, vigorously carried out, took, as usual, wide eff"ect. 
After his death at the battle of Stikklestad, he became the tutelar saint of 
Norway, the "Lamb" of the calendar. His remains ranked as relics in the 
ancient cathedral at Throndhjem, till Protestantism, or rather Lutheranism, under 
Gustavus Vasa (a.d. 1527), and Christian II. (1536), replaced Romanism in the 
Scandinavian peninsula. The Royal Order of Norway, founded in 1847 by the 
late king, Oscar I., bears his name. London has boasted of four "St Olaves ;" 
and Tooley Street of the Tailors, according to Mr Peter Cunningham, notes the 
site of the first church. To retain due reverence for such a "Saint," we must 
believe with Pliny (Epist,, viii. 24) : "Reverere gloriam veterem, ethane ipsam 
senectutem, quce in homine venerabilis, in urbibus sacra. Sit apud te honor 
antiquitati, sit ingentibus factis, sitfabulis quoq^ie." 


mythological pasquinade abounding in hizarreries, and the 
Lokasenna (Loki's Altercation), all scoffs and sneers, an epi- 
gramme moqueuse et grossihre, a kind of hyperborean Guerre des 
Dieux. The " great Sire of gods and men " ^ was dying or dead, 
a gloomy fate which equally awaits superhuman and human 
nature. The decline and fall of Odinism only repeated the 
religious histories of Palestine, Egypt, and India; of Greece 
and of Eome, whose maximum of effeteness has ever been at 
the period of the Christian invasion. 

The faith of the Hindus, a modern people amongst whom 
we can best study the tenets and practices of the ancients 
called "classics," distinctly recognises Pantheus, the All-God.^ 
The worshipper of Bramlia, Vishnu, and Shiva, still refers in 
familiar discourse to something above his triad of world-rulers ; 
to a Parameshwar (Chief Eshwara or Demiourgos), and to a 
Bhagwan or Giver of good, as if he were a Jew, a Christian, or a 
Moslem. Even the barbarous tribes of Africa are not without 
the conviction, as we see in the Nyonmo of the Gold Coast, and 
in the Nzambi Mupunga (Great Lord) of the Congo. But the 
God of ancient as of modern paganism was and is an unknown 
God — in fact, the Unknowable recognised by our contemporary 
philosophy, which seems to be returning to the natural instincts 

1 It was a classical dream whicli made Odin or Sigge (whence Sigtuna), and his 
followers the iEsir (minor gods), fly from Pompey in the days of Mithridates. 
It was a philological dream of Finn Magnusson's which identified Bragi with 
Bramha, and the ferocious and sanguinary Odin with the moral and holy Buddha, 
the prototype of the Christian exemplar. The casual resemblance to the Etruscan 
Tina has not been more fortunate. Some one well remarks that "a man born 
about A.D. 333, and dying seventy-eight years old (a.d, 411), would, in respect 
to time, perfectly represent the personage whom the Scandinavians and the 
Anglo-Saxons call Odin and Woden, and who are the roots of their royal 

* This fact was not unknown to Bishop "Warburton and to Lord Herbert of 
Cherbury. In the Egyptian hymn to Phthah we read : " Praised be thy 
countenance, Kuler of the World!" Ausonius thus explains the multitude of 
synonyms : 

*' Ogj'^gia ME Bacchum vocat ; 

Osirin ^Egyptus putat ; 

Mystse Phanacen nominant; 

Dionyson Indi existimant ; 

Roman a sacra Liberum ; 

Arabica gens Adoneum ; 

Lucianus Pantheum." 

Those who see in ancient myths the eternal contest of sunlight and darkness ; ot 
summer and winter, and, in the moral world, of intelligence and ignorance, will 
find strong confirmation in Eddaic poetry and prose. 


of its childhood. Moreover, in old Scandinavia the several 
forms or eidola of the Deity, such as OSin and Thor, Freyr and 
Njordr, were confused as the systems of African Fetichism — 
a confusion indeed by no means wanting in the civilised 
idolatries of Assyria, of Egypt and India, of Greece and Eome, 
and of Mexico and Peru, the New World representatives of our 
" classical regions." 

Curious to observe, however, the pagans had, like the 
modern Gaboons, a form of baptism, water being probably the 
symbol of the UrSar-brunnr (Weird or Fate-fount), and a regular 
system of national expiation (Sonar-blot), annually performed 
by prince-pontiff and lieges. 

Presently Christianity came with its offer of a personal God, 
an anthropomorphous Creator who, having made the creature 
after His own image, was refashioned by the creature ; and the 
change from vagueness to distinctness perfectly suited the spirit 
of the age. Yet, in Iceland, Thor^ died hard because he was 
essentially an Icelander; blunt, hot-headed, of few words and 
of many blows. The red-bearded one was not to be abolished 
at once ; " they called Paul Odin, but Barnabas they called 
Thor : " the latter was long invoked by the traveller and the 
soldier before deeds of " derring do ; " whilst Jesus was prayed 
to in matters of charity and beneficence. " Hast thou heard," 
said the mother of Eef the Skald, " how Thor challenged Christ 
to single combat, and how He did not dare to fight Thor ? " 
We find the same phenomenon in the modern faith of the 
Persian, who adores Allah, and who reveres Mohammed and 
Ali, whilst he looks back with regret upon the goodly days 
when his Persian deities, the gods and demi-gods of Guebrism, 
gloriously ruled the land of Iran. 

The transition from the turbulent and sanguinary Odinic system, 
with its Paradise of war and wassail, to a religion based upon 

1 Properly written Thorr, a congener of the Maeso-Gotliic Thunrs, the Thunder- 
god who named our Thursday. Whilst his golden-haired wife, Sif, who repre- 
sented mother earth, with her sheaves of ripe grain, and the sanctity of wedlock 
and the family, is wholly forgotten, this terrigenous deity still lives, as we shall 
see, in modern Icelandic names. It is usually said that Iceland, following Norway, 
preferred Thorr, whilst the Danes paid the highest honours to Odin, and the 
Swedes to Freya (Venus), or rather to Freyr, her brother, tlie sun-god, who pre- 
sided over the seasons and bestowed peace, fertility, and riches. 


mildness and mercy could not fail to hear notable fruit. The 
blithe gods who built Mi?5gar3 vanished in the glooms of tlie 
sad " School of Galilee." Of the extreme craft and cruelty, the 
racial characteristics of the old Scandinavian, only the craft 
remained. A nation of human sacrificers now cannot bear to 
see a criminal hanged — he must be sent for execution to Copen- 
hagen. The new faith, also, was adverse to the spirit of a free 
people: it preached over-regard for human life, and it taught 
fighting men propter vitam vivendi perdere causas. It weighed 
heavily upon the "secret and profound spring of society," as 
Ozanam describes the laws of honour in man, " which is 
nothing but the independence and inviolability of the human 
conscience, superior to all powers, all tyrannies, and all external 
force." ^ In fact, we may repeat in Iceland what Montalembert 
(The Monks of the' West, p. 252) said of the ex-mistress of the 
world : " There is something more surprising and sadder still " 
(than all its pagan cruelty and corruption) '"'in the Eoman 
Empire after it became Christian." 

The first school, founded about the middle of the eleventh 
century, began to divert the national mind from arms and raids 
to art and literature. The Eddas and Sagas were committed to 
writing ; and the Augustan age extended during the two following 
centuries, ending with the fourteenth. The islanders gave their 
own names, many of them very uncouth, to the festivals of the 
Church. Saints arose in the land. The best known to local 
fame was Bishop Thorlak (Thorlacius) Thorhallsson, who died 
in A.D. 1193. Though uncanonised, he was honoured by the 
dedication of a church at MikligarS (the Great Fence), or Con- 
stantinople, for the use of the Waring ^ Janissaries. The vigne du 
Seigneur was split into two bishoprics, Skalholt (a.d. 1057), and 
Holar (a.d. 1107). Hospitals were endowed, and no less than 
nine monasteries and nunneries were founded by the regular 
canons (Augustines), and by their most estimable brethren the 
Benedictines, whose annals command all our respect.^ 

1 The reader may remember, in the late Rev. Frederick Robertson's Lectures to 
Working Men, a fine passage upon the same subject. 

■^ Vceringi (phir. -jar) IVarings, or the name of the Scandinavian and Anglo- 
Saxon warriors serving as bodyguards to the Emperors of Constantinople. 

^ Of the monks proper (Icel. Munkr, = fxovbs, monachus), only Benedictines 


The following is a list of the religious houses built in Iceland : 

The foreign Bishop Eudolph (ob. 1052) established the first monastery in Iceland 
in Beer, BorgarfjorS. It never had any abbot, and soon disappeared. 

Bishop Magnus Einarsson (ob. 1148) bought the greatest part of the Vest- 
mannaeyjar, and began to build a monastery there ; after his death the institution 
came to nothing. 

A monastery was instituted in H;ftardalr (circa 1166), but was dissolved before 
the year 1270. During its existence it had five abbots. 

Jon Loptsson, the grandson of Ssemundr FroSi, built a house and a church at his 
estate Keldur (circa 1190), which he intended for a monastery ; but owing to some 
quarrels with the bishop of Skalholt, it never was consecrated nor dedicated to its 
intended purpose. 

Bishop Brandr of Holar instituted a monastery in Saurbser in EyjafjorS (circa 
1200). It had two abbots, but it is never mentioned after the year 1212, 

Of the monasteries permanently established, the earliest was 

Shortly after the installation of Jon Ogmundsson (1106) as bishop of Holar, 
the season was so severe that no growth appeared when the people were as- 
sembled at the spring meeting (Var-Thing, about the end of May) in Thingeyrar. 
The bishop made a vow to erect a monastery at the place, for monks of 
the Order of St Benedict. Soon after this there was a favourable change in the 
weather. It was not, however, until 1133 that the Benedictine monks fixed their 
abode there. The monks of Thingeyrar were celebrated for their learning, and 
several illustrious names are to be found among its abbots, e.g., Karl (ob. 1212), 
Oddr (ob. circa 1200), Gunnlaugr (ob. 1218), and many others. The twenty-third 
and last of the series died 1561. 


This monastery, famous for its old documents, was founded by Bishop Bjorn 
Gilsson of Holar in a.d. 1155. Its monks also were Benedictines. The twenty- 
fifth of its abbots embraced Lutheranism in a.d. 1551. 

This monastery is also called the monastery in Ver or Alftaver. It was founded 
by one Thorkell Geirason, by the authority of Bishop Kloengur Thorsteinsson of 
Skalholt, in a.d. 1168. Its tenants were under the rule of St Augustine. The 
nineteenth and last abbot of this monastery went to Copenhagen in 1550, and 
was there converted to the Lutheran persuasion. Tliis house had a famous library. 


Bishop Kloengur Thorsteinsson of Skalholt instituted a monastery in the island 
Flatey, in BreiSifjorS, in 1172. His successor, St Thorlakr, removed it to 

were found in Iceland. They were accompanied by the regular canons of St 
Augustine. There were no "brothers" (fratres) or religious mendicants, as 
Dominicans and Franciscans; nor "regular clerks," as Jesuits, Theatines, etc., 
who date since the sixteenth century ; nor secular priests united in congregations 
like Oratorians and Lazarists. 


Helgafell, and dedicated it to St John. Its tenants followed the rule of St 
Augustine. The twenty-fifth and last abbot died shortly before ] 550. 


Founded by Thorvaldr Gissurarson, the father of Earl Gissur, and consecrated 
by his brother, Bishop Magnfis of Skalholt, in the year 1226. Its tenants followed 
the rule of St Augustine. The eighteenth and last abbot embraced Lutheranisni, 
and died in a.d. 1568. Earl Gissur here ended his days. 

There were two priories in the island, viz. : 

Instituted by Bishop Jorund of Holar in a.d. 1296. Its monks were Augustines. 
Seven of its priors are known, and the last died in 1546. 


Instituted towards the end of the fifteenth century. It only had four priors, 
who, it seems, followed the rule of St Augustine. 
There were two nunneries : 


Founded by one Bjarnhar^Jr, at the application of Bishop KlcBUgur of Skalholt, 
and consecrated by him in a.d. 1186, on condition that its occupants should be 
nuns following the rules of St Benedict. The names of twelve of its abbesses are 


Founded by Bishop Jorund of Holar in 1296. The sisters followed the rules ol 
St Benedict. Ten of its abbesses are mentioned, and the last died in 1562. 

The Skalds, or bards, who probably long retained their old 
paganism in new Christianity, distinguished themselves by word 
and deed in every northern court of Europe, and wandered as 
far as the Mediterranean shores. But the heart of the people 
was dying, and the national spirit had fled, never more to be 
revived. In a.d. 1024, the Althing bravely refused all connec- 
tion with Norway. But, presently, the clergy, spiritually subject 
to foreign sees, — Bremen, Scania, and Throndhjem, — listened to 
the voice of the annexor, and thus traitors divided the island 
camp. They fostered jealousies between rival Udallers, whose 
implacable hatreds and blood-feuds converted the annals, like 
those of the Anglo-Saxons, into records of rapine and murder. 
The Althing shortly after A.D. 1004 had abolished the duello, a 
northern institution unknown to classic Greece and Eome ; or 
rather, let us say, it abolished itself, when " trial by point and 
edge" had lost its old significancy as a formal and religious 

appeal to that God of Battles who defends the right. The Court 
VOL. I. G 


of Justice took the place of the Holm-gang ; and at times it was 
silent in the presence of the sword and the firebrand, w^hich, in 
riotous frays, spared neither sex nor age. But gradually it de- 
veloped every form of chicanery and law-devilry, in whose dark 
labyrinths it is hard to see any improvement upon the " wild 
justice of revenge." Its arts were jury-challenging; demurrers 
aided by the jealousy of the judges, whose duty was to catch a 
man tripping ; the detection of flaws ; attempts to split the 
court (a3 vefingja dominn) and cause non-suits ; false witness, 
and the breaking of oaths those " sports of brave men and 
terrors of fools." The law was made bankrupt by the tricks of 
irrelevancy and by-play, by the special pleading, by the quib- 
bling, the bribery, and the corruption of the tribunals. When all 
failed, a petty massacre was sure to succeed ; and as these pro- 
ceedings arose from the captious litigiousness of the race, so 
they long maintained the grievous trammels and shackles of so- 
called legal principles.^ 

Thus in the middle of the thirteenth century, Hakon V., king 
of Norway (reg. a.d. 1217-1264), was able openly to treat for the 
surrender of Iceland liberty. After some three hundred years 
of Udallism, the heroic island passed into foreign dominion by a 
decree of the Althing under " Catillus," or " Catullus " (Kettill), 
the last of the independent law-sayers or presidents. Modern 
Icelanders, copied by strangers, stoutly and patriotically main- 
tain that the relation of the two countries was an alliance, a 
personal union, rather than a real union, or a priori a subjection. 
It is certain that treaties were formally exchanged ; that the 
ancient laws and rights of property were secured ; that free 
commerce was stipulated ; that Icelanders were made eligible to 
hold office in Norway ; and that any infringement of conditions 
dispensed with the incorporation. But the hard facts remain 
that a poU-tax, a tribute of sixteen ells of homespun cloth, was 
imposed, and that a viceroy was appointed to govern the island. 
Thus Liberty was palsied, and Independence gave place to the 
status piopillaris. To dispute upon this independent allegiance 
is only to debate a question of degree. 

^ As will be seen, modern law recognises, or rather compels, an official arbitra- 
tion before causes can be brought into court. 


The eighth and last of the Crusades, movements which began 
in A.D. 1188-1190, and ended in a.d. 1260-1275, was the first 
preached in Iceland (Hist. Eccles., i. 571), and it partially 
aroused the islandry from their apathy and habitual law-con- 
tests. But the effects were transient, save upon individuals. 
The physical history of the thirteenth century is chiefly remark- 
able for the widespread ruin caused by its terrible eruptions and 
desolating earthquakes. Now began the epidemics and epizootics 
which, from A.D. 1306 to a.d. 1846, number 134 — viz., seven 
in the fourteenth, six in the fifteenth, twelve in the sixteenth, 
twenty-eight in the seventeenth, and forty-one in the eighteenth 
centuries, with several during the present. An unreformed pagan 
would have beKeved that the wrath of the olden gods weighed 
heavy on the land. 

The same may be said of the fourteenth century, which also 
witnessed the calamitous annexation to Denmark.^ After the 
death of Knut (Canute) in a.d. 1035, Magnus ascended the 
throne of Norway, and native sovereigns ruled till a.d. 1319, 
when the male line became extinct with Hakon VII. The Diet 
enthroned his daughter's infant son, Magnus Eiriksson, who, 
being already king of Sweden, had brought the Scandinavian 
peninsula and its dependencies under a single sceptre. But the 
union did not last. Magntis bestowed Norway upon his son 
Hakon, who was married to Margaret, sole daughter of Walde- 
mar III., king of Denmark. The issue, Olafr IV., succeeded to 
the throne of his gTandfather in a.d. 1376, and to that of his 
father four years afterwards, thus incorporating Norway with 
Denmark. Dying a minor in a.d. 1387, he left both kingdoms to 
his mother, Margaret, by whose energetic rule the regency had 
been carried on, and she found no difficulty in setting aside the 
feeble pretensions of Albert of Mecklenburg. In a.d. 1397 the 
union or treaty of Calmar took place, and Iceland, which still 
maintained its modicum of independence, was once more trans- 

^ The author would by no means make the invidious assertion that the Danish 
treatment of colonies was worse than that of other contemporary nations. On the 
contrary, in Africa, India, and the West Indian Islands, it has been a favourable 
contrast to most of the rest. But Europe in the fourteenth century, and in the 
ages which followed it, presents a melancholy contrast with the refined and 
civilised usage of her settlements by Republican and Imperial Rome. 


ferred without opposition to the triple crown of Denmark, Nor- 
way, and Sweden. The conditions of the annexation to Norway 
(a.d. 1264) were tacitly consented to by the Danish rulers when 
they succeeded to Iceland by marriage and inheritance. Yet 
" the Semiramis of the north " began by the usual contempt of 
stipulations : she repaid submission by perpetuating a poll-tax 
of half-a-mark per head, and, worse still, by establishing a royal 
monopoly of trade. The latter, confined to vessels licensed by 
the Crown, nearly secured for Iceland the fate which befell the 
lost colonies of Greenland. From this period till A.D. 1814, 
Denmark and Norway remained united, each, however, governed 
by its own laws. 

The fifteenth century was as disastrous as that which preceded 
it. The Digerdoed, or Black Death, the Plague of the Decameron, 
had raged with prodigious violence about a.d. 1348, and it was 
followed by a winter which, destroying nearly all the cattle, left 
a purely pastoral country permanently upon the verge of utter 
ruin. A second pestilence, the Svarti DauSi, or Black Death, 
visited the hapless island; whilst English and other pirates, 
plundering and burning on the main, fortified themselves in the 
Vestmannaeyjar archipelago, despoiled the churches and farms 
of the coast, held the franklins to ransom, and sold the poor into 
slavery. And at last, in the middle of the sixteenth century, 
came the crowning blow, the introduction of Lutheranism. 

Catholicism had sat lightly upon the remote spot verging on the 
hyperborean seas. The papal tithe (Pafa tiund) and Peter's 
Pence, imposed in a.d. 1305 by the king of Norway under pain 
of excommunication,^ did not weigh heavy. At first the tax 
was one nagli (nail), or tenth of an ell, of Wadmal (Va3-mal) 
cloth, its equivalent being two fishes ; and it never rose higher 
than ten ells of homespun per adult male. The sale of Indul- 
gences, which accompanied the last and first crusade, was abol- 
ished in A.D. 1289. Celibacy of the clergy was introduced in 
Iceland by Thorlak Thorhallsson, who died in the quasi-odour of 
sanctity in 1193. After that date ecclesiastics were not form- 

^ Of this process there were two forms, which began to be passed (circa) a.d. 
1180. Bann, or Meira Bann was E. Major ; Minna Bann was E. Minor, whilst the 
interdict was called For-boS, the German Verbot. 


ally married, but were not debarred from living with FriUur, 
or Fryllas, concubines, then generally called by the laity " holy 
women." As in Charlemagne's day, bigamy was not wholly 
unknown. A few took second wives, " non lihidine, sed oh 
nohilitatem; but the fierce temper of the Husfreya, or mater- 
familias, must have made the arrangement uncomfortable. Thus 
it is said^ Snorri Sturluson in a.d. 1212 married the daughter of 
Deacon Loptsson, who had a harem of concubines, one the child 
of a bishop. Jon Geirriksson, the Dane, popularly written " John 
Jerechini," bishop of Skalholt, in A.D. 1430, is also accused of 
being a buccaneer, a mere brigand, who could not write his 
name, which little drawback, however, did not prevent an attempt 
to canonise him after he was deservedly (?) lynched in a.d. 1433. 
Jon Arason, bishop of Holar, is charged with keeping a mistress 
at the age of eighty.^ But much of this may be sectarian exagger- 

^ This prudential reservation is the more necessary as most of our information 
comes from the enemy. Bishop Jon Ogmundsson had two wives, not at the same 
time, but one after another. 

2 " In the sixteenth century the Reformation was forced upon the people by the 
united kingdoms of Denmark and Norway ; its progress was everywhere marked 
by blood, and even the Lutheran historian, Finn Jonsson, is unable to veil com- 
pletely the atrocities which were committed. The venerable bishop of Holar, Jon 
Arnason {sic, doubtless a clerical error), the last Catholic prelate, received the 
crown of martyrdom along with his two sons, uttering with his dying breath, 
' Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit ! ' " Thus writes Baring-Gould (In- 
troduction, xL). Mr Jon A. Hjaltalln hereupon observes : *' I must call attention to 
this quotation from Mr Baring-Gould regarding the introduction of the Reforma- 
tion into Iceland. I cannot protest too strongly against it. It is utterly false from 
beginning to end. Every one who has the slightest acquaintance with the history 
of Iceland during the sixteenth century knows that Lutheranism was not forced 
upon the Icelanders. The Reformation movement was only encouraged by the 
king of Denmark. Old men, Bishop Jon Arason among others, were permitted 
to retain their former faith if they were willing to leave others equally undisturbed 
in the exercises of their religion. This fact is corroborated by the bishop's imme- 
diate descendants, who in everything glorified their ancestor as a martyr. Further, 
it cannot be shown that a single person lost his life in Iceland in connection with 
the introduction of the Reformation. The quarrel which led to the death of the 
bishop and his two sons arose from a dispute about the sale and occupation of a 
farm in the west. Bishop Jon Arason was an exact counterpart of the chiefs of 
the Sturlunga times ; he delighted to ride about the island with hundreds of fol- 
lowers, and to engage in fights and broils with every one who had any property 
to lose. That it was not religious zeal that devoured him or his sons may be seen 
from the fact, that in a letter to the chancellor of the king of Denmark (dated 
10th August 1550) they say that ' their father the bishop, as well as themselves, 
are ready to keep the holy Evangelium, as His Majesty has ordered it to be preached 
everywhere in Iceland.' There is all probability that they would have come to 
an untimely end even if there had been no Reformation. The king had indeed 
ordered their arrest as disturbers of the public peace. He did not, however, 
order their execution. The responsibility for that act must rest upon the Ice- 
landers who seized them, and mistrusted their ability to keep them in safe custody 


ation, and in after-ages Protestant authors would not inquire too 
curiously if, as often happens in the present day, the priest was 
married before he was ordained. And, although we are told that 
a frequent entry at Councils was " Quoniam Dominus A. Epis- 
copus scribere nescit, ideo ejus loco subscripsit, B.C." — which re- 
minds us of many nobles and gentles who could " nocht write " 
in Scotland, — we must not forget that, in the thirteenth century, 
the Augustines attempted a vernacular translation of the Bible.^ 

Thus all the glow of faith and the fervid belief in the deifica- 
tions of the family, in saints and martyrs raised above man's 
estate by supererogatory piety and virtue, and in the living and 
breathing locum tenens of the first apostle, was darkened by a 
system of semi-rationalism, which allows reason too much or 
too little scope ; which arrogates to itself the unreasonable right 
of saying " Thus far shalt thou go and no farther," at the same 
time loudly professing its own fallibility ; and which has suc- 
ceeded fatally well in splitting the Church into a thousand 
fragments. A philosopher might have forecast the result from 
his study. Men unwilling to believe were relieved of a great 
load, and their energetic action was no match for the passive 
resistance of the many honest and pious souls who embraced 
the new form of faith. The Crown laid violent hands, as in 
England, upon the " Eegalia Sancti Petri" (temporalities), which 
it transferred to its favourites ; the religious houses were secu- 
larised, and the ecclesiastics had the choice either of banish- 
ment, or of conforming to what they held the teachings of a 

Changes of religion seem to have been peculiarly unfortunate 

until they could be brought before the proper tribunal. So far from anybody 
losing his life through the introduction of the Reformation, no one was even de- 
prived of his liberty for a single hour except by Bishop Arason and his sons. I 
hope it was through crass ignorance only that Mr Baring- Gould penned such an 
extraordinary statement as the one quoted. Or is he able to name the people who 
sutfered during the introduction of the Reformation, and to show trustworthy 
documents that they did thus suffer ?" 

^ Charges of national ignorance are favourites with the ignorant, and unhappily 
not only with them : the analphabetic state of Spain is pressed into active ser- 
vice by the English home litterateur, especially of the Evangelical or Low Church 
school. It sounds strange to one who has often met upon the outer bridle-paths 
men mounted on their mules, and diligently reading books and newspapers. And 
the superior civilisation of the Latin race is hardly to be measured by the three 
*' R's," or by similar mechanical appliances. 


in Iceland. The seventeenth century saw absolute monarchism 
extend from Denmark under Frederick III. to her distant de- 
pendency. Encouraged by the apathy and indolence of the 
islanders, the foreign pirates, English and French, redoubled 
their exertions; even the Algerines made a successful raid. 
The seventeenth century showed the epidemic of superstition 
which distinguished the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers ; an 
ignorant and fanatical interpretation of Jewish history caused 
the torturing and burning of many a witch and wizard, who pro- 
bably were often only natural media, and mesmerisers or odylic 
sensitives. The eighteenth century (a.d. 1707) began with the 
small-pox, which kiUed 16,000 to 18,000 of the 50,000 islanders. 
In A.D. 1759, rigorous winters brought on a famine equally fatal to 
man and beast; of the former some 10,000 perished. In 1762 
about 280,000 sheep died, or were slaughtered. In a.d. 1788 
took place that first eruption of the SkaptarjokuU, which has 
been described as the most appalling and destructive since 
authentic history began. 

About the beginning of the present century, Iceland, under 
physical evils, monopoly, and misrule, fell to its lowest point. 
Greatly to the displeasure of the lieges, the two sees were reduced 
to one ; the same took place with the colleges, and finally the 
Althing was abolished (a.d. 1800). The war between Great 
Britain and Denmark would inevitably have caused actual starva- 
tion, but for a humane order in council,^ through the interest of 
Sir Joseph Banks, permitting the island to be supplied with the 
necessaries of life. In a.d. 1843, brighter days dawned. After 
a disuse of nearly half a century, the Althing was re-established; 
but it was only a shadow of its former self — a body of represen- 
tatives whom the Home Government deigned to consult. Still, 
it roused the people to take interest in their own affairs. Finally, 
the proclamation of a constitution for Denmark (1848) produced 
effects which now are being matured. 

The benefits of free and popular rule were offered by the 
Danish Government to Iceland. But the offer was based upon the 
supposition, indignantly repudiated in the island, that she was 

^ The document is quoted in extenso by Henderson (ii. 164-1G6), and by Baring- 
Gould (Introduction, pp. xlv., xlvi.). 


subject to the Eigsdag;^ and it was repeatedly refused, as falling 
short of the royal promise made in 1848. Hence arose the 
Radical party, whose extreme left, though disclaiming the idea 
of separation, is distinctly republican. The author has com- 
pared it with the Home Rule movement in Ireland, warning his 
readers, however, that there are salient points of difference ; while 
the absence of social and religious complications is all in favour 
of the Scandinavian. The head of the party was and is the 
highly distinguished scholar Hr Jon SigurSsson; there is none 
beside him, but " proximo accesserunt" Ex- Justice Benidikt 
Sveinsson, Professor Haldor FriSriksson, Rev. Eirikr Kuld, and 
Jon SigurSsson of Gautlond, a farmer in the north. They com- 
plained that the king, whose rule at home was limited by the 
Chambers, remained absolute in Iceland ; that the constitution 
did not place them on an equal footing with their fellow-subjects; 
that they were governed by men living in Copenhagen, who 
knew little of local requirements, and of a doctrinaire clique 
which has done abundant harm. They described paternal rule 
as equivalent to the rule of red tape ; they distrusted the Danes 
even dona ferentes, and they declared that there is still " some- 
thing rotten" in a certain state. It was, indeed, evident that 
the national Liberal party of Denmark, with the usual liberality 
of " Liberals," aimed only at subjecting their Icelandic fellow- 

In vain the ministers of Frederick VII. offered what appeared 
to the outer world the fairest terms — the establishment of an 
Upper and a Lower House, and a settlement of all claims by a 

1 The Icelanders' view of the connection between their country and Denmark is 
simply this : They declare the union, dating from 1264, and renewed in 1380, to 
be personal, not real, and limited to both countries being under the same king. 
The Rigsdag cannot therefore legislate for the Althing, and the constitutional 
law of Denmark has never become that of Iceland. They consequently demand 
that the Althing should have legislative and not mere counselling powers ; that it 
should sanction in the island the laws proposed by the Danes ; and that the 
minister who advises the Crown in Icelandic matters should be responsible to this 
Diet. On the other hand, Denmark denies the validity of mediaeval treaties, the 
relations of the mother country and her dependency having been completely 
altered by historical events; consequently Iceland is now an integral and insepar- 
able part of the Danish kingdom, and the laws of Denmark must be valid in Ice- 
land as in the other colonies. Iceland, they say, cannot claim any self-rule as 
a right ; still, it may be desirable, on account of their peculiar circumstances, to 
allow the Icelanders a voice in the management of their own affairs, subject, how- 
ever, to the supervision and consent of the Rigsdag and the Home Government. 


perpetual allowance of $60,000 per annum.^ The Home-Eulers 
" totted up " all that the Danes stole, such is the mild word used,^ 
from chalice to landed estate, with interest, simple and compound, 
for the last three centuries. These pretensions exceeded those 
of the United States in the Alabama affair: everything was 
placed to the debit of Denmark, nothing to her credit. But Hr 
SigurSsson, the opposition leader, sensibly said, "The money claims 
are the most awkward to the Liberals, and pressing them is the 
best lever when moving for self-government." The Danes laughed 
at the idea of holding a constitutional country liable for the debts 
of absolute kings, contracted in a.d. 1550-1800, when Denmark 
herself was plundered, as well as Iceland, by irresponsible rulers. 
There was, however, this difference, that while Iceland was 
plundered to enrich Danes residing in Denmark, Denmark was 
plundered to enrich her own citizens. And Hr SigurSsson was 
fated to win. Important events have happened since the author 
left the island. A public meeting, attended by delegates from 
every district, was held (Jime 26, 1873) at Thing vellir. Here it 
was resolved to use every effort either to end Danish rule in 
Iceland, or to obtain an extended constitution which should give 
the island a government of her own. Correspondents assured the 
writer that the movement passed off without undue excitement. 
"Hereditary bondsmen" know in those days that no physical blow 
need be struck, and that " every institution," to use the words of 
a well-known separatist, " can be modified or destroyed by the 
weapon of agitation, under the guidance of popular opinion." 

At this preliminary to the opening of the Althing it was 
decided to send three delegates to Denmark, and to submit to the 
ministry a draft constitution, drawn up with the view of develop- 
ing the island and its inhabitants. The two principal provisions 
were (1.) That Iceland should be connected with the home country 
by a "personal union only;" and (2.) That it should be governed 

1 It is popularly asserted that the Danish Government contributes $30,000 per 
annum for the support of Iceland. Upon this subject, see note at end of the 
present section. 

2 The author tried in vain to see the wording of the "little bill," and was 
assured that it had not been printed. It appeared in the Allgemeine Zeitung, 
Nos. m, 84, 85, 101, and 102, of the 7th, 25th, and 26th March, and 11th and 12th 
April 1870. The article is entitled " Island und Danemark," and is written by 
the historian Professor Konrad Maurer of Munich. See note at end. 


by a Jarl, earl, or viceroy, with a minister or ministers responsible 
to the House of Eepresentatives. 

After the close of the meeting the Althing assembled at the 
usual place. Some of the more advanced kept, it is said, their seats 
when the usual cheers were given for the king ; but no disloyal 
manifestation was made beyond rejecting almost all the bills 
brought in by the local government. The draft constitution was 
referred to a committee, which on July 28, 1873, reported in its 
favour, and added a resolution that the king should be requested 
to concede the following temporary arrangements as soon as pos- 
sible, and not later than the next year: 

1. That the Althing be at once invested with full legislative 
powers, and a new budget be submitted for its approval once in 
every two years, on the principle that no tax or impost shall be 
levied in Iceland for defraying expenditure incurred by the 
Danish Government. 

2. That a special minister be appointed for Icelandic affairs, 
and that he be responsible to the Althing. 

3. That this arrangement be valid for six years only, after 
which the entire constitution shall be laid before the Althing for 
its consideration. 

On January 5th, 1874, after a struggle of thirty years, the new 
Icelandic constitution was signed by the king, and came into 
force on August 1st of the same year, the millenary festival com- 
memorating the occupation of the Northmen. The original plan of 
the two houses has been carried out. The biennial Althing will 
consist of thirty members voted in by the people, and of six 
nominated by the Crown. The Upper House will contain the six 
royal nominees, and six others elected by the general body of the 
Althing from its members, duly returned by their constituencies ; 
while the Lower House will number the remaining twenty-four. 
The vote is confirmed to of&cials, to ecclesiastics of every grade, 
to all university graduates, and even to students who sign them- 
selves " Candidat" (B.A). It is extended to citizens who lease 
farms, to those who pay a minimum of eight crowns a year in 
government taxes, and to the country people that contribute 
either cess or parish rates — evidently universal suffrage, exclud- 
ing only women and minors, paupers and criminals. Every voter 


must be twenty-five years old, and of unblemished character; 
and he must have resided at least a twelvemonth in his electoral 
district. Any person who has a right to the franchise, who is 
thirty years of age, who has been domiciled in Iceland or Den- 
mark for five years, and who is not in the employment of a 
foreign state, is qualified for election to the Althing. The session 
may not outlast six weeks without special royal assent, and pro- 
visions are made for extraordinary sessions. 

The new constitution, which purports to regulate only home 
affairs, is a distinct improvement upon the old platform. The 
Secretary for Iceland is independent of the Danish Cabinet and 
Eigsdag, and becomes responsible to the king and to the Althing. 
This minister will be answerable for the maintenance of the 
constitution, and he will nominate for royal approval the chief 
local functionary. The governor's functions will be determined 
by his majesty, and constitutional complaints against him will 
be investigated by the Crown. Thus the Althing will enjoy 
certain legislative rights, and have some control over the 
administration of its country. Finally, as Iceland has no 
representative in the Eigsdag, and as she has never taken 
part in the legislature, nor in the general government of the 
empire, she will not contribute to the home expenditure.-'- 

But the power of passing laws is not granted absolutely ; it 
is subject to royal confirmation. The relative position of the 
Secretary for Iceland to the people, represented by the Althing, 
remains to be defined. Even less satisfactory are the arrange- 
ments concerning the local governor ; his power and duties are 
not settled, and the Althing will have no voice in settling them. 
Hitherto he has mostly acted as a mere channel of communica- 
tion between the island and the Copenhagen Cabinet, and the 
new constitution does nothing to remedy this evil. On the 
contrary, the king makes a special reservation concerning the 
expenses of the "highest local government of the island," 
meaning that the governor's salary will be dependent upon 
the Crown, and will not be discussed by the Althing with the 
rest of the budget. Thus the ruler becomes wholly independ- 

^ Cela va sans dire ; for many years the island has been too poor to pay for the 
expenses of governing it. But see note at end of section. 


ent of the ruled, and dependent only on the Secretary for 
Iceland. Again, the nomination of six members by the king 
will have the effect, in case of disagreement between the Upper 
and Lower Houses, of enabling the royal commissioners to frustrate 
legislation simply by absenting themselves from the debates. 
This is perhaps the weakest point of the new constitution ; it 
may be necessary in Denmark where the tone of the middle 
classes is distinctly democratic and republican, but it is looked 
upon and is protested against in aristocratic and conservative 
Iceland as an affront to their loyalty. And it can serve for 
nothing but to create an artificial opposition and to strengthen 
any minister or governor in anti-national or Danising measures. 
The provision that the governor may sit in the Althing and 
speak as often as he pleases, is distinctly unconstitutional ; nor 
is the paragraph concerning the fixed contribution and the 
sinking contribution at all satisfactory. 

The author ventures to predict, with due diffidence, that, 
however liberal this constitution may appear, it will not satisfy 
local requirements — it grants too much or it gives too little. 
The next demand will be for the governor to be invested with 
the full powers residing in the heads of British colonies, 
supported by a local ministry, the latter virtually independent 
of the Home Colonial Minister. Denmark is, perhaps, not yet 
sufficiently advanced in political education to grant the gift; 
yet the experiment is worth trying. If the demand be rejected, 
the persuasion that Iceland has never thriven since Icelanders 
lost their privilege of self-rule will steadily increase, and pro- 
bably attain abnormal dimensions. A school of politics has 
now been opened to the people, and the new study will produce 
special students. Irrepressible malcontents, intransigentes, and 
irreconcilables, who have trodden the path of separation, are 
never easily brought back to the sleepy old highway of routine 
rule ; and the constitution has provided them with many 
grievances, especially the doubts cast upon Icelandic loyalty 
and good faith. There are not a few European revolutionists 
who, urgent for the general derangement of affairs, will hardly 
disdain to " keep their hands in," even so far north. An 
Icelander in England flatly contradicted the assertion that a 


republican or separatist feeling exists in Iceland.^ The " great 
public meeting "of 1873 expressed the latter, and what could a 
separated Iceland be or become except a republic ? Not only 
" subversive philanthropists " but well-meaning and patriotic men 
will find subjection to a foreign secretary and a foreign governor 
intolerable when they wish to manage themselves. The " little 
bill " will still be a strong lever for raising popular passions. 
In the days when Ireland continues to " write and speak of '98," 
when Norway " strikes " as heavily as Great Britain, and when 
the Socialists breed troubles in Denmark where the International 
has been interdicted by the courts of justice, as a branch of the 
English society, the Icelandic Home Kuler is not likely to sit 
still — ^perhaps it is not desirable that he should. 

Since the unhappy Dano-Prussian war we have heard little of 
Scandinavia in England, and we are apt to conclude that the 
Pan-Scandinavian idea is dead. It is not dead but sleeping; 
and while Pan- Slavism affects to slumber that it may gather 
vis and energy for decisive movements when the time for action 
comes, we still live in hopes of seeing a federal union of the 
great northern kingdoms, and to find Iceland taking her place as 
a minor but not an undistinguished member of the family. 
Scandinavian liberty, says Montesquieu, est la mere des libertes de 
VEurope, and her free-born children have not lost and will 
never lose respect for the parent. 

Note to Section III. 

Since these lines were written. Christian IX., the first crowned 
head that ever sighted her shores, has visited Iceland upon the 
well-chosen occasion of her millenary festival. The courteous 
and parental bearing of the king has made its due impression. 
The lieges have taken a sensible view of the situation; they 
spoke in a conciliatory spirit, and satisfaction with the change 
from the former state of things seems to have been general. 
Even the anti-government party is thankful for what it has won, 

^ Hr Eirikr Magnusson in the Standard of December 1, 1872, et seq. 


and hopes in course of time to win what it wants. " This is a 
good beginning," said a prominent member, " and, since we have 
got legislative powers, it is our own fault if we cannot get 

The following statement was sent to me by Mr Jon A. 
Hjaltalin, who is responsible for his assertions. The paper 
thoroughly expresses the Icelanders' view of their financial re- 
lations with the Danish Government : 

" The budget of Iceland for 1867-68 was : 

Eevenue. Expenditure. 

5,345 21 sk. $79,682 56 sk. 

1,675 21 sk. $63,929 8 sk. 

$51,222 21 sk. $77,361 24 sk. 

$44,787 21 sk. $65,865 72 sk. 

"This is the Danish statement of the annual budget for Iceland. Con- 
sequently it has been commonly said by Danes and travellers who have not 
been able to dive below the surface, that Iceland was the receiver of Danish 
bounty to the tune of something like $30,000 annually. It was, however, 
acknowledged by the Danish Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1845 that such was 
not the case, for in his report he said : * It is perhaps doubtful whether we really 
contribute anything towards the support of Iceland. . . . It is true, certainly, 
that an annual sum is paid to the Icelandic treasury. . . . This payment 
cannot, however, properly be called a subsidy, because the whole of the Icelandic 
revenues has not been paAd into the Icelandic treasury (but into the Danish 
treasury). . . . The Icelandic treasury has also disbursed several sums (at the 
command of the Danish Government), which cannot be set down as expenses for 
Iceland. ' This is the gist of the whole dispute. Sums are not entered on the 
credit side of the Icelandic budget which Iceland has really paid into the Danish 
treasury. Thus an annual deficit is easily made out. 

"Down to the middle of the last century the accounts of Iceland were kept 
clear and separate from those of Denmark. Then the Icelandic budget showed 
an annual surplus which found its way into the Danish treasury. After that date, 
the accounts of both were mixed up together, and for three quarters of a century 
(till 1825) the annual revenue and expenditure of Iceland cannot be properly ascer- 
tained. It is, however, known that several large sums, above the annual revenues of 
the island, were paid into the Danish treasury during this period. On the other 
hand, it cannot be shown that the annual expenses had risen above the former 
yearly average. When a separate account was again opened with Iceland, no 
notice was taken of the extraordinary sums paid into the Danish treasury on 
behalf of Iceland. 

" To show the reader the chief items of the Icelandic budget, we will take the 
budget for 1870-71 : 





From the trade, $12,600 


J > 

Crown pro- 
perty, . 12,080 


> J 

Royal tithes, 3,750 



Repayment of 
loans, . 8,192 15 sk. 



Sundries, 8,165 6 


Deficit, . . 21,078 51 



I. Expenses of the ad- 
ministration and 
medical staff of 
Iceland, . $34,653 

Expenses of the 
bishop and the 
educational estab- 
lishments, . 27,212 72 sk. 

Sundries, . . 4,000 

$65,865 72 sk. $65,865 72 sk. 

" It will be seen from the above that one of the chief items in the Iceland revenues 
is derived from Crown property in the island, which in round numbers now amounts 
to $12,000, This is entered in the annual budget to the credit of Iceland. In 
1866, $175,037 had been paid into the Danish treasury for Crown property sold in 
Iceland at different times. Neither this sum nor its interest is, however, men- 
tioned in the annual statements of Icelandic finances. But if Iceland has a right 
to the revenues derived from the Crown property still unsold, it has an equal 
right to the interest of the money paid for that which is sold. This sum, amount- 
ing to about $7000, ought to be added to the annual revenue, thus making the 
annual income from the Crown property $19,000 instead of $12,000. There are 
also several smaller items which ought to be entered on the credit side of the 
Icelandic budget. 

" No. II. of the expenditure, viz. the salaries of the bishop and the professors of 
the colleges, and other expenses connected with the colleges, form a heavy item 
in the expenditure of Iceland, or, in round numbers, $27,000 annually. It is, 
however, not correct to charge this sum against Iceland unless an equal sum is 
entered on the credit side of the budget, because all the property supporting the 
two bishops and the two colleges of Iceland was sold according to a royal com- 
mand of 29th April 1785, and the proceeds of the sale were paid into the Danish 
treasury on the understanding and implied promise of the king, that the expenses 
of these institutions were to be defrayed by the Danish treasury for the future. 
This sum is nevertheless annually charged against Iceland as if Denmark never 
had received any equivalent for it. 

' ' The budget arranged according to the foregoing observations will be : 

I. From the trade, $12,600 



Crown pro 

perty, . 




Royal tithes, 



J » 

Repayment of 

loans, , 

8,192 15 sk. 




8,165 6 



No. II. Ex- 


34,212 72 

Total, ^ 

78,999 93 sk. 

I. Expenses of the ad- 
ministration and 
medical staff of 
Iceland, . $34,653 
II. Expenses of the 
bishop and the 
educational estab- 
lishments, . 34,212 72 sk. 

III. Sundries, . 4,000 

IV. Annual surplus, 13,134 21 

Total, $78,999 93 sk. 


" Thus it will be seen that the Icelandic budget, instead of showing a deficit of 
$21,078, 51 sk., has, when properly stated, a surplus of $13,134, 21 sk. The 
claims of Iceland arising out of these financial misstatements were partly recog- 
nised by the Danish Government in the Act of 2d January 1871, by which it was 
provided that $30,000 per annum should be paid perpetually from the Danish 
treasury to Iceland; and, in addition, an annual sum of $20,000 for ten years, 
after which period this latter sum is to decrease by $1000 per annum until it is 

*' In conclusion, I will present the reader with the ' little bill' of the Icelanders 
against the Danish treasury. The rent of the Crown farms was always paid in 
kind, and the present money value of the articles paid as yearly rents for these 
farms at the time they were seized by the Crown is $41,055, 40 sk. When the 
rents of the still unsold farms are subtracted, there remains, 

I. An annual claim against the Danish treasury for the balance, 

amounting to ..... $27,855 40 sk. 

II. The Icelanders' claim for loss of interest of money paid into 
the Danish treasury for sold Crown property, the annual 
sum of ..... . 6,900 

III. For the rent of farms belonging to the bishop sees, and sold for 

the benefit of the Danish treasury, calculated in the same 

way as the rent of the Crown farms, the annual sum of 31,769 52 

IV. For movable property belonging to the episcopal sees, and ap- 

propriated by the Crown, the annual sum of . 2, 400 

V. For the trade monopoly, the annual sum of . . 50,800 ^ 

Total annual sums, . $119,724 92 sk. 

' ' Thus the Icelanders consider themselves to have good claims on the Danish 
treasury for the annual sum of $119,724, 92 sk,, or a round sum of $3,000,000. 

" On the other hand, the Icelanders consider themselves bound to pay $20,000 
annually towards the general expenditure of the Danish state (Report of the 
Eoyal Commission Appointed to Inquire into the Financial Affairs of Iceland, 1861, 
as communicated in the ThjoSolfr newspaper, xvii., pp. 101, 107)." 

^ It can be proved that the different sums paid into the Danish treasury by the 
various companies who rented the trade with Iceland from time to time (from 
1602 to 1722) amounted at least to $2,000,000, and the revenue of Iceland has 
never been credited with this sum. 




§ 1. General Considerations. 

Iceland, we have seen, is the largest island in the North 
Atlantic, and one of the most considerable known to the Old 
World. Lying 130 direct geographical miles east of Greenland, 
500 north-west of Scotland, and 850 west of Norway; distant 
1000 miles from Liverpool, 1300 from Copenhagen, and 3000 
from Boston, it is claimed as an Eastern dependency of the 
American continent which the Icelander first colonised. It has 
also been called a " singular fragment of Scandinavian Europe." 
Yet, geographically considered, it belongs neither to the Old nor 
to the New Hemisphere ; it is a little continent of itself 

Formerly a considerable part of the island was made to enter 
the" Polar circle, which, in some maps, passed through the north- 
ern third. On the other hand, the eastern coast was curtailed of 
its due proportions, being thrown too far west even in charts still 
used. Hooker, for instance, makes the longitude range from 10° 
to 12° west of Greenwich, — an extreme error of some two to 
three degrees. 

Iceland extends from Portland, in N. lat. 63° 22', to the North 
Cape, in N. lat. 66° 44', covering 3° 22' = 202 direct geographical 
miles of depth. The extreme longitudinal points are laid down 
between the north-eastern projection of EskifjorS, in W. long. G. 
13° 38' (33' ?), and the Point of BreiSavik, in 24° 40' (36' ?), or 
11° 25' of length, the degrees in this latitude being greatly re- 
duced.^ Thus the maximum depth would represent 186 geogra- 
phical miles, which some writers increase to 190 and 192 ; and 

1 The degree of longitude in 





i 27701 feet. 

»> »> 




2674-9 „ 

" '* 




2578-9 „ 

5J >> 




2432-1 „ 

>> i> 




2384-6 „ 

instead of 6082 at the Equat 





the length 308, which are again extended to 313. The circum- 
ference, measured from naze to naze, is variously given at 752 to 
830 miles. The superficial area has also been variously calcu- 
lated. Whilst Olafsson gives .56,000 square geographical, and 
Egger 29,838 Danish, miles (15 = 1°), modern calculations have 
reduced it to 37,000, 37,388, and 40,000, the latter being gene- 
rally assumed in round numbers.^ Thus Iceland is about five 
times instead of double, as certain writers supposed, the size of 
Sicily (7700 sq. geog. miles) ; about one-sixth larger than Ire- 
land (32,511) ; nearly equal to Portugal (37,900) ; approaching 
the state of New York (46,000) ; two-ninths the extent of Sweden, 
and one-fifth the size of France. 

The parallel of iN". lat. 65°, which, roughly speaking, bisects 
Iceland, would pass westwards through Southern Greenland, 
cross Davis Straits, Fox-land and Fox-channel; the northern 
apex of Southampton Island, the Back River, the Bear Lake, 
and entering Eskimo-land, formerly Eussian America, would 
leave ISTorton Sound to the south, and Prince of Wales Cape a 
few miles to the north. Thence travelling over Behring's Strait, 
it would enter Asia a little south of East Cape, cut the two 
Siberias, the Tobolsk Eiver, the Urals, the White Sea, and the 
Bothnian Gulf, and issue from Europe about Vigten Island, 
somewhat north of mid-I^orway. The antsecious oceans of the 
Old World contain no corresponding feature : the New Hemi- 
sphere shows immense uninhabited tracts — Graham's Land, 
Enderby's, Kemp's, and the Antarctic continent, which are 
probably continuous ; with their outliers — South Shetlands, 
South Orkneys, and Sandwich Land. 

The estimate of the habitable area was fixed at one-eighth by 
older writers.^ It is now assumed, with PaijkuU, at one-tenth 
(4000 : 40,000). Human life is confined to the larger islets, to 

^ Sir George S. Mackenzie makes the desert tracts of inner Iceland to number 
40,000 square miles, a figure which still deforms Lyell's admirable Principles of 
Geology, 11th edit., vol ii., p. 454. Mr Vice-Consul Crowe reduces the total area 
to 29,440 square miles (geog.), of which two-thirds are upwards of 1000 feet above 
sea-level, and only 4288 square geographical miles are covered with perpetual 
snow, whose line begins between 2000 and 3500 feet. 

^ The proportion of " boe," where barley can be cultivated in the Fseroes, was, 
till very lately, 1 : 60 of outfield or pasture. 


the vicinity of the more important sub-maritime lakes, to the 
sheltered valleys and river courses, below the plateau, and to the 
false coast. The latter, eluvie mons deductus in cequor, is formed 
by the debris and alluvium of the mountain walls washed down 
by rains, torrents, debacles, and glacier-exundations, and subse- 
quently elevated by earthquakes, which are supposed to be still 
raising the southern coast.^ According to Gunnlaugsson and 
Olsen, one-third is green or agricultural ; there is a similar pro- 
portion of HeiSiland ; and the remainder is tlbygS (hod. ObygS) 
or desert — a chaos of sand-tracts and peat-swamps, lava-runs, 
and the huge masses of eternal congelation called JokuUs.^ 

The population was laid down by Barrow (1834) at 0*2 per 
whole area, and by Paijkull (1865) at 1*6 : being now assumed 
at 70,000, it would be 1'75. Paijkull makes 6*2 head the 
average of habitable ground, and for the reclaimed tracts he 
gives 17 5. The latter figure exceeds the mean of Africa, which 
is 16 to the square mile (viz., 192,000,000 head to 11,556,000 
square statute miles), and it is three times greater than in the 
whole Western Hemisphere. 

1 The day is past when the *' determinate lines of fracture," which resembled 
the empirical parallelism and the pentagonal networks of mountains, connected 
Hekla with Etna — yet it was an improvement upon the theory which made both 
of them mouths of the Inferno, Evidence to the latter purport has been given in 
our law-courts. The earthquake district of Iceland was popularly supposed to 
include Great Britain, Northern France, Denmark, Scandinavia, and Greenland — 
regions of the most diversified formation. The theory seemed to repose for base 
upon isolated cases of simultaneity, possibly coincidents. But, as Dr Lauder 
Lindsay remarks, contemporaneity iwould suggest a vast extension of these limits. 
The (Lisbon) earthquake of 1755, for instance, extended from Barbary to Iceland, 
from Persia to Santos in the Brazil. The earthquake of 1783 was equally damag- 
ing to Calabria and to Iceland. Even in 1872, there were, as has been shown, 
almost simultaneous movements in Syria, Naples, and Iceland, 

2 Hooker tells us to pronounce JokuU " yuckull," which involves three distinct 
errors, especially in the double liquid, which becomes everywhere, except before 
a vowel, dl or tl, like Popocatape^^. laki is a lump of ice, a congener of the 
Pers. ^", like our "ice," although Adelung derives the Germ. Eis-jocher from 
the Lat. Jugum, and'translates * * Excels! Jokli " by " Montana Glacies. " Jokull in 
Icel. primarily means " icicle, " a sense now obsolete. The signification ** glacier " 
was probably borrowed from the Norse country Hardanger, the only Norwegian 
county in which ' ' Jokull " appears as a local name ; and it was applied to the 
** Gletschers " of the Iceland colonies in Greenland. *' The Jokull " par excellence 
is SnsefellsjokuU. 


§ 2. Divisions. 

In early Norwegian days (a.d. 965) Iceland was distributed, 
like Ireland, into four quadrants, tetrads, or fourths (FjorSungar), 
named after the points of the compass. These were — 

AustfirSinga-fjorSungr, . . Eastern Quarter. 

VestfirSinga- „ . . Western „ 

NorSlendinga- „ . . Northern „ 

Sunnlendinga- „ . . Southern ,, 


Before a.d. 1770, one AmtmaSr governed the whole of Iceland ; 
in that year it was divided into two Amts (rules), the north-eastern 
and the south-western. Thus the northern and the eastern quad- 
rants, whose population was scanty, were placed for administra- 
tive purposes under a single Amt, the headquarters being at 
FriSriksgafa, of old MoSruvellir, near Akureyri, on the western 
shore of the EyjafjorS. In 1787 the south-west Amt was divided 
into two, the southern and the western. In 1872 it was pro- 
posed to unite the western with the southern tetrarchy, and to 
transfer the amtship of Stykkish61m to Eeykjavik, the capital. 
Thus there will again be only two Amts under the governor, and 
this simplification may act well. 

The official title of the highest official was StiptamtmaSr ; in 
Danish, Stiftamtmand.^ It has lately been changed, without, 
however, any other advantage of rank or pay, from High Bailiff 
to Governor-General (LandshoMngi). Formerly the military 
and naval services had a preference, and titled names were not 
rare : at present the post is given to civilians.^ The salary of 
this high official was f 500 in 1772 ; it afterwards became $2000, 
and now it is $4000. 

The four quarters were divided into Syslur^ (Dan. Syssel), 

^ The Icel, Stipti (Dan. Stift, and old Low Germ. Stigt) means a bishopric or 
ecclesiastical bailiwick. Hence Uno Von Troil translates Stiftamtmand by " bailiff 
of episcopal diocese," and it gradually came to mean a civil governor. Cleasby 
informs us (sub voce) that both name and office are quite modern in Iceland. 

^ Further details concerning the governor-general will be found in the Journal. 

' The S^sla {pi. S;^slur, and in compounds S^slu) is derived from S^sl, ' ' business " 
— aS s^sla, *' to be busy." As a law terra, it signifies any stewardship held from 



which are ever changing. For instance, the Gullbringu and 
Kjosar have lately been united, politically as well as ecclesiasti- 
cally ; the same has happened to Myra Sysla and Hnappadals, 
whilst the vacancies have been filled up by the Vestmannaeyjar. 
Under the twenty-one Syslur, cantons or counties, prefectures 
or sheriffdoms, are the 169 Hrepps or poor-law districts,^ which 
are not like our ecclesiastic divisions. We have preserved in 
England the word, e.g., Eape of Brambor. 

The following is a list of Syslur and Hreppar, taken from the 
official documents which show the movement of Iceland in 

The Su5ur-umdsemi5, or southern jurisdiction, contains 7 Syslur 
and 48 Hreppar, viz. : 

1. Austur-Skaptafells Sysla, \ 

2. Vestur-Skaptafells „ j 

3. Vestmannaeyjar „ 

4. Eangarvalla „ 

5. Arnes (not Arness) „ 

6. Gullbringu and Kjosar „ 

7. Eeykjavik „ 

8. BorgarfjarSar „ 

The Vestur-umdsemiS contains 6 Syslur and 55 Hreppar, viz. 

1. Myra and Hnappadals Syslur, with 10 Hreppar. 

2. Snsefellsnes (not Snoefells) Sysla, 

with 7 Hreppar. 

. 1 „ 

„ 8 

„ 13 

„ 9 

„ 1 

„ 9 

3. Dala 

4. BarSastrandar 

5. IsafjarSar 

6. Stranda 





the king or bishop ; in a geographical sense, it means a district, bailiwick, or 
prefecture. At present it answers to the Thing of the Icelandic Commonwealth 

1 ISI ot to be confounded with the Sokn, or parish proper. Cleasby is disposed 
to date the Rapes from the eleventh century, and he remarks that the district 
round the bishop's seat at Skalholt is called " Hreppar," showing that the house 
was the nucleus of the division. 

2 From pp. 703-909, the Sk:frslur um Landshagi a Islandi, vol. 4, MoUer, 
Copenhagen, 1870, a portly octavo of 934 pages. Mr Longman's list of the 
S^slas (p. 34, Suggestions for the Exploration of Iceland) was quite correct, except 
in point of orthography, but it is no longer so. 



The JNTorSur og Austur UmdsemiS contains 7 Syslur and 66 
Hreppar, viz. : 

1. Hiinavatns Sysla, 

2. SkagafjarSar „ 

3. Eyjafjar3ar(Grimsey,etc.), „ 

4. SuSur-Thingeyjar „ \ 

5. ISTorSur-Thingeyjar „ j 

6. NorSur-Mula^ 

7. SuSur-Mtila 

with 12 Hreppar. 



Wlien the author visited Iceland (1872), the Baearfogeti, or 
mayor of Eeykjavik, was AmtmacJr for the southern quarter. 
Hr Christian Christiansson ruled the north and east at 
FriSriksgafa, and Hr Bergur Thorberg, knight of the Danne-* 
brog, had his headquarters at Stykkisholm on the western 
fourth. Now (1874), Hr Bergur Thorberg governs the southern 
and western quadrants, and Hr Christian Christiansson, with the 
title of JustitsraS, the northern and the eastern. These officers are 
addressed as Havelborni, and they receive the reports of the 
several Syslumenn. 

The Syslumenn, or sheriffs, are the civil staff, the tax-gatherers 
and stewards as it were of the king; and appointed by the 
Crown. In order to obtain this office they must be graduates 
of the University of Copenhagen; they wear uniforms, a gold 
band round the cap, frock coats, waistcoats,^ and vests of blue 
broadcloth, with the royal button, and they may become ministers 
of state. They preside at the HeraSthings ^ or annual county courts ; 
they watch over the peace of their shrievalties ; they officiate as 
public notaries; and they maintain the rights of inheritance. 
The SyslumaSr in his judicial capacity, and chiefly when land- 
questions are to be determined, is occasionally assisted by 
four MeSdomsmenn (concessores judicii), who give suffrage and 
register proceedings ; decisions are pronounced according to 

1 The Mtala-S:fsla (" mull " county) was formerly divided into three parts, 
the northern, the central, and the southern, each with its S:fslumaSr. The 
present distribution dates from the year 1779. 

2 HeraS (or Hierat) is the Scotch " heriot," a tax paid to feudal lord in lieu of 
military service. In Icelandic the Hera9 is a geographical district generally, and 
is specially applied to the river-basin of the SkagafjorS (Cleasby). 


the vote of the majority.^ He superintends elections. Formerly 
he could compel the lieges to repair the highways, and the law 
still obliges each landed proprietor to keep the rough fences upon 
his estate in good condition. A small sum called Vegabotargjald 
is also taken by the SyslumaSr to pay for the necessary expenses 
of roads ; unfortunately the corvh or robot of peasants has been 
abolished, and the means of transit are much neglected. A law 
compelling all sturdy vagrants and able-bodied paupers to work 
upon the highways is as much wanted in Iceland, as useful and 
productive employment for the hordes of soldiers who now 
compose the standing armies of Europe. 

Under the Syslumenn and appointed by the Amtmenn are 
the Hreppstjorar or Hreppstjornarmenn, bailiffs and poor- 
inspectors with parochial jurisdiction. It is hardly to be 
doubted that the division into Eapes existed in heathen days, 
and Dr Konrad Maurer believes that they had organised poor 
laws and rules for vagrancy which the Christian bishops after- 
wards amended and expanded. In these days the Eape-stewards 
assist their civil and ecclesiastical superiors to manage the 
business of the Eape, to preserve public order, and to estimate 
cessable property according to the ancient custom of the island. 
They fix the poor-rate for each land-holder, and they especially 
attend to the condition and maintenance of paupers (Tjmagar), 
who are no longer subject to the pains and penalties of that 
ancient code the Gragas (grey or wild goose). ^ Where the parish 
exceeds 400 souls, these minor officials usually number two to 
five. They are substantial yeomen who wear no distinctive 
dress. They and their children are exempt from taxation, and 

1 The sheriff does not attend parish meetings, he has no schools to inspect, for 
there are none, in fact he has nothing to do with education at all, that being the. 
business of the parish priest under the superintendence of the profastr (dean) of 
the district. 

2 The name of this Icelandic code of laws, which must not be confounded with 
the Gragas of Norway, is variously explained from the grey binding or from being 
written with a grey goose-quill. It was adopted in Iceland in a.d. 1118, and it 
contained a Lex de ejusmodi mendicis (sturdy vagrants) impune castrandis. 
Some writers suppose that the Icelandic Commonwealth had written laws but no 
code. After the union with Norway the island received its first written code, the 
Iron-side, Jarn-SiSa (a.d. 1262-1272), and this was exchanged in a.d. 1272 for the 
Jonsbok, so termed from John the Lawyer who brought it from Norway. Uno 
Von Troil (p. 73) removes the date of the latter to a.d. 1272. 


this is their only salary. The functions of the Amtmenn, Syslu- 
menn, and of the Hreppstjorar especially, will be greatly modified 
when the law of May 4th, 1872, comes into operation during the 
present year. A standing Hreppsnefnd, or a committee of three, 
five, or seven, is to be elected in each Hreppr. This body is to 
have charge of the poor, the sanitary conditions, and the 
general business of the Hreppr, including the repair of roads. 
It is also to levy the poor-rates and other cesses of the Hreppr. 
The Hreppstjorar will be retained, but their functions are not 
defined. A Syslunefnd is also to be elected in each Sysla, con- 
sisting of six to ten members ; and the SyslumaSr is ex officio a 
convener or foreman of this committee. It is to have charge 
of the roads, to manage the general business of the Sysla, and 
to exercise supervision over the Hreppsnefndir. Thirdly, 
AmtsraS, Amt-Councils, consisting of the Amtma?5r and two 
elected members, will audit and control all the accounts of the 
Amt ; will act as trustees of all public institutions and public 
legacies, and wiU. have supervision over the Hreppsnefndir and 

§ 3. Judicial Procedure. 

It is well known that trial by jury, the bulwark of English- 
men's rights, though fathered by English legal antiquaries upon 
King Alfred, is a purely Scandinavian institution. According 
to the Landnamabok (II., ix., note, p. 83), the KviSr plays a 
considerable part in the republican history; and the form of 
trial like our juries de vicineto appears in the thirteenth century. 
As Mr Vigfusson remarks (Cleasby, sub voce KviSr) : " From 
the analogy of the Icelandic customs, it can be inferred with 
certainty that, along with the invasion of Danes and Norsemen, 
the judgment by verdict was also transplanted to English ground, 
for the settlers of England were kith and kin to those of Iceland, 
carrying with them the same laws and customs; lastly, after 
the Conquest, it became the law of the land. This old Scandi- 
navian institution gradually died out in the mother countries ^ 

1 Mr Dasent, Introduction to Diet, (xlviii. ), remarks that the jury was never 
developed in Norway, and only struck faint root in the Danish and Swedish laws. 


and ended in Iceland, A.D. 1271-1281, with the fall of the Com- 
monwealth and the introduction of a Norse code of laws, whereas 
it was naturalised in England, which came to be the classical 
land of trial by jury." 

Modern Iceland utterly ignores it, but, as in the United States, 
all freemen are familiar with judicial procedures, and public 
opinion, not to speak of the press, is a sufficient safeguard for 
a small community. 

In criminal cases the Crown prosecutes, and the king must 
ratify capital sentences. Like the Cives of Eome, and very un- 
like the subjects of civilised Europe, Icelanders are not confined 
before trial, there being no houses of detention ; but a criminal is 
kept either by the sheriff or the hreppstjori, who is responsible 
for his being brought to judgment at an order from the court. 
By way of checking the litigiousness of the lieges, a regular 
system of arbitration is in force. The parish priest ex officio and 
one of his parishioners are the Forlikunarmenn (reconciliators), 
and act as umpires ; and a previous investigation of causes often 
quashes them. 

It is only in administrative cases, e.g., about paupers, etc., that 
there is an appeal from the decisions of the sheriff to the Amt- 
maSr. Erom the SyslumaSr's court civil causes go for cassation 
directly to the Supreme Court (Konunglegi-Landsyfirrettur) of 
Keykjavik, which was instituted in A.D. 1800, when the Althing, 
which then had judicial as well as legislative and administrative 
functions, was abolished. The Eoyal Court consists of a Chief 
Justice (Justiciarius) and two assessors; the governor presides, 
but takes no part in the judicial proceedings. All three votes 
are equal, and the majority decides, thus making the judge and 
assessors jury as well as judges. The actual dignitaries are Hr 
ThorSur Jonasson, Hr Jon Petursen, and Hr Magnus Stephen- 
sen; the salaries are, $2816, $2016, and $1416. There are also 
two procurators (the English barrister and the Scotch advocate), 
Hr Pall Melsted and Hr Jon GuSmundsson, who edits the lead- 
ing newspaper. Hr P. GuSjonsson, the church organist, is not 

When asserting the jury to be purely Scandinavian, the author speaks of Europe, 
neglecting the admirable Panchayat system which arose in the village republics 
of Hindostan, and a multitude of other similar institutions. 


a procurator although he occasionally conducts cases before the 
superior court. 

At this Eoyal High Court of Judgment the evidence and 
pleadings of both parties are heard, and the Justiciarius, after 
taking the opinions of his assessors, pronounces his decision. 
For cassation, causes must then go to the Chancellerie, or Supreme 
Court of Judicature at Copenhagen. 


Statistics — General Considerations — Personal Appearance 
— Character — The Family — Diseases. 

§ 1. Statistics. 

The constitution of society and the physical features of Ice- 
land are peculiarly favourable to numbering the people. The 
island has no object either to diminish her total in order to avoid 
recruiting, and has scant interest in exaggerating it with a view 
to urban concessions and civic privileges. Between a.d. 1840-60 
the census was quinquennial ; since that time every decade has 
been deemed sufficient. 

The following numbers are taken from various sources, and 
especially from the latest official figures in the Skyrslur of 
October 1, 1870 : 

0. Olavius Ponteppidan Thaarup, etc. 

S. Qr. W. Qr. N. & E. Qrs. Total. 

In A.D. 1703, . . 18,728 15,774 15,942 50,444 

1769, . . 17,150 13,596 15,455 46,201 

In A.D. 1770 Uno Von Troil (p. 25) estimated the population 
at 60,000 souls, or about 10,000 more than sixty years after the 
Norwegian colonisation. In 1783 the total fell to 47,287, and 
in 1786 to 38,142 (Preyer and Zirkel, p. 483). Since the begin- 
ning of the present century we have exact and minute com- 
putations : 



Statistisk Tabel-V-siek. 

S. Qr, W. Qr. N. & E. Qrs. Total. 

InA.D. 1801, . . 17,160 13,976 16,104 46,240(47,207?) 
,, 1806 (Preyer and Zirkel, whereas Mackenzie assigns it 

to 1804), 46,349 

„ 1808 (Preyer and Zirkel ; and Mackenzie, p. 280), . 48,063 

„ 1834, (Dillon, unofficial, evidently "round numbers") 53,000 

1835, . . 20,292 14,480 21,263 56,035 

1840, . . 20,677 14,665 21,752 57,094 

1842(Meddel., ii. 70), 53,000 

1845, . . 21,364 14,956 22,238 58,358 


S. Qr. 
In A.D. 1850, . . 21,288 
1855, . . 22,810 
„ 1857 (Preyer and Zirkel), 
1858 ( Do. ), 

1860, . . 23,137 
,, 1865 (Vice-Consul Crowe), 

1870, . . 25,063 
,, 1872 (estimated), 
while that of Madeira is 80,000. 

W. Qr. 


N. & E. Qrs. 



The following table (Skyrslur um landshagi a Island!, v. 310, 
1872) shows the increase of population during the present cen- 
tury down to 1870 : 

From Feb. 1, 1801, to Feb. 2, 1835, increase 18 

,, Feb. 2, 1835, to Nov. 2, 1840, „ 1 

,, Nov. 2, 1840, to Nov. 2, 1845, ,, 2 

„ Nov. 2, 1845, to Feb. 1, 1850, „ 1 

,, Feb. 1, 1850, to Oct. 1, 1855, „ 9 

,, Oct. 1, 1855, to Oct. 1, 1860, ,, 3 

,, Oct. 1, 1860, to Oct. 1,1870, ,, 4 

71 per cent. 







The average rate of increase during the last century was 
very small : between A.D. 1703 and 1758 it was about one-fifth 
of 1 per cent. During the present age there has been, we observe, 
a tolerably regular progress with only three exceptions (a.d. 
1835-40, A.D. 1845-50, and a.d. 1860-70). During this decade 
(1860-70) there has been a considerable failure, 4"14 per cent., or 
only 2 '05 for each lustrum. In 1872, as will be seen, the num- 
ber of males was 33,102 ; of females, 36,660. But throughout 



Iceland the fluctuations have ever been so great as to reduce the 
value of " general considerations." 

The following tables are compiled from the minute returns 
made to the Danish Government, and published in vols, i.-vi- 
of 1852-61, of the Meddelser fra det Statistishe Bureau, Copen- 

No. I. — Table showing the Population of Iceland and its Distribution on the 
1st February 1850, and on the 1st October 1855. 


Southern Amt. 


Gullbringu and Kjosar S;fsla,i exclu- 
sive of Reykjavik, 

The same, including Reykjavik, 

BorgarfjarSar S^sla, 

Arnes S^^sla, 

Rangarvalla S;^sla, 

Austr and Vestr Skaptafells S^sla,^ 
Vestmannaeyja^ S;fsla, .... 

Total (Southern Amt), . . 

Western Amt. 
M^ra and Hnappadals S^sla,^ . 

Snsefellsness S;fsla, 

Dala S^sla, 

BarSastrandar S^sla, 

IsafjarSar"^ S^sla, 

Stranda S;fsla, 

Total (Western Amt), . . . 

Northern and Eastern Amts. 

Hunavatns S;^sla, 

SkagafjarSar S^sla, 

Eyjafjar?Jar S^sla, 

NorSr and SutJr Thingeyjar S;^sla,i 

NorSr-Mula S^sla, 

Su?Jr-Mula S5^sla, 

Total (Northern and Eastern 

Total for all Iceland, . . . 

No. of Families. 

1850. 1855. 































9297 59,157 





in hun- 











1 Separated on 6lsen's map. 

^ Apparently combined with Rangarvalla Sf sla on 6lsen's map. 

3 Sub-divided into north and west by P. and Z., p. 480; Mck., p. 281. 



No. II. — Distribution of the Population of Iceland according to ages in 1855. 


Per cent. 


Per cent. 

Under 20 years, .... 
Between 20 and 30 years, . 
Between 30 and 40 years, . 
Between 40 and 50 years, . 





Between 50 and 60 years, . 
Between 60 and 70 years, . 
Over 70 years, .... 


No. III. — Table showing the Means of Support of the Population of Iceland on 

the 1st October 1855. 







Wives & Families. 





*3 <— 1 

























Ecclesiastics and 

teachers, . . 














Civil officials and 

employes, . . 














Persons who live 

on their means, 














Men of science 

and letters, . . 













Persons who live 

by agriculture, 














Persons who live 

by the sea, . . 














Mechanics, . . 














Traders and inn- 

keepers, . . . 














Persons who work 

by the day, . . 














Others who pur- 

sue no definite 















Receiving alms, . 




, , 





Prisoners, . . . 

Total, . . . 
Percentage of po- 

















33,743 64,603 


pulation, . . 




21 o 









126 ULTIMA thule; or, 

The following are the latest returns : 

Table showing tlie Population of Iceland on the 1st October 1860 and 1870. 


Southern Amt. 
Reykjavik, ..... 
Gullbrlngu and Kjosar Sfsla,, 
BorgarfjarSar S^sla, 
Arnes S^sla, .... 

Rangarvalla S^sla, 
Austr and Yestr Skaptafells S;f sla, 
Yestmannaeyja S^sla, . 

Total (Southern Amt), . 

Western Amt. 
M^a and Hnappadals Sfsla, 
Snsefellsness S;fsla, 
Dala S;fsla, . 
BarSastrandar S^sla, 
IsafjarSar S^sla, . 
Stranda S^sla, 

Total (Western Amt), . 

Northern and Eastern Amts, 
Hunavatns S^sla, 
SkagafjarSar S;^sla, 
EyjafjarSar S^sla, 
Thingeyjar S^sla, 
NorSr-Mula S:fsla, 
SuSr-Mula S^sla, 

Total (Northern and Eastern Amts), 
Total for all Iceland, 











































































Increase and 

Decrease per 


+ 13-7 

+ ]5-l 

+ 8-9 

+ 3-3 

- 0-4 

+ 14-4 

+ 8-3 




+ 0-2 



+ 3-0 

+ 4-1 

The following is the official list of households for 1872 : 

In the Su?5r-umdsemiS (South Quarter) are 3568 households, with 11,835 men and 13,228 women. 
„ Vestr „ (West „ ) „ 2150 „ 7,981 „ „ 9,019 „ 

„ NorSrog Austr . . „ 3588 „ 13,286 „ „ 14,413 „ 

Total, . 


33,102 men and 36,660 women. 

According to Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (Eeport), during the 
average of ten years (1855-65) there was annually — 



1 marriage for every . 

143 persons. 

1 birth for every 

25 „ 

1 death for every 

39 „ 

1 deaf and dumb for every 

. 994 „ 

1 blind .... 

320 „ 

In 1855 there were 202 blind and 65 born siird-mutes. In 
1870 the former numbered 225 (160 men and 65 women), and 
the latter 50 (20 + 30). 

In table III. (1855), we see that of 64,603 souls, 52,475, about 
three-fourths of the heads of families and those who provide 
support, lived by farming, that is, by cattle-breeding, whilst 
more than four-fifths of the entire population thus derived their 
maintenance. At the same time, 5055 were fishermen, and only 
703 were traders, showing a primitive state of society. Mr 
Consul Crowe (Eeport, 1870-71) remarks : " Somewhat more than 
the 75 per cent, of the total population were engaged in sheep 
rearing and agricultural pursuits; and, notwithstanding the 
steady and lucrative nature of the fisheries, only about 10 per 
cent, were engaged in them." The mechanics may be further 
distributed as follows : 

Bakers, (in 



proportion per 

thousand O'Ol in 1870 numbered 2 





Gold & Silver ) 
Smiths, \ 










0-94 , 
















0-59 , 



















0-00 , 


Other industries 







The following is a table of ages in 1870 : 



Years. Married, 




ited. Married. 


1. Widows. 























• • • 





« • . 






















' 1031 









I 1384 









^ 1867 









I 1225 









) 1067 









1 623 








i 456 









3 360 








1 282 









2 130 








I 50 



































100 1 










V ■ 




According to Mr Consul Crowe (Eeport, 1870-71), the propor- 
tion between births and deaths was : 

1 Dillon notices forty-one women who had passed ninety : the number has now 
greatly fallen off. There is a further decline from the days of Olaus Magnus, who 
informs us that "the Icelanders, who, instead of bread, have fish bruised with a 
stone, live three hundred years." The general longevity of Norway proves that 
the climates of the north, the vagina gentium of Jornandes, have nothing ad- 
verse to human life. In Scotland the census of 1870 gave a total of twenty-six 
centagenarians — nine men and seventeen women. 














+ 0-20 
+ 0-27 
+ 0-80 
+ 1-13 
+ 0-96 
+ 0-67 
+ 1-42 
+ 0-69 
+ 0-33 
+ 0-83 



The tables of 1855 gave an excess of 2865 women. Mac- 
kenzie (1801) shows 21,476 males to 25,731 females, or 4255 
out of a total of 47,207. In 1865 the proportion of men to 
women was 1000 : 1093. In 1870 the conditions had im- 
proved, the surplus being only 3554 out of 69,763, a small 
percentage of waste labour. 

It is easy to account for the preponderance of women, as well 
as their superior longevity, without entering into the knotty 
subject of what determines sex. They lead more regular lives, 
they have less hardship and fatigue, and they are rarely exposed 
to such accidents as being lost at sea or " in the mist." Accord- 
ing to Mr Vice-Consul Crowe, in 1865-66, of every forty- two 
deaths one was by drowning. 

There is a tradition that Iceland during its palmiest days 
contained 100,000 souls, but it seems to rest upon no foundation. 
On the other hand, the old superstitious belief that some fatal 
epidemic invariably follows an increase beyond 60,000, has, 
during the last few years, shown itself to be equally groundless. 
It is probably one of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc confusions so 
popular amongst the vulgar ; and, unhappily, not confined to the 


130 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

§ 2. General Considerations. 

" The first inhabitants of the northern world, Dania, Nerigos, 
and Susecia," says Saxo Grammaticus, repeated by Arngrimr 
Jonsson, " were the posterity and remnant of the Canaanites quos 
fugavit Jesus latro — expnlsed from Palestine about A.c. 1500 by 
Joshua and Caleb." Duly appreciating the ethnological value 
of this tradition, we may remark that the occupation of Ultima 
Thule, which the ancients evidently held to be inhabited — tihi 
serviat must mean that there were men to serve — has not yet 
been proved. But Mongoloid or prse- Aryan colonies in ancient 
days seem to have overrun all the Old, if not the 'New World, 
and we must not despair of tracing them to Iceland. 

The modern Icelander is a quasi-Norwegian, justly proud of 
the old home. His race is completely free from any taint of 
Skrselling, Innuit,^ or Mongoloid blood, as some travellers have 
represented, and as the vulgar of Europe seem to believe. 
Here and there, but rarely, a dark flat face, oblique eyes, and 
long black horsehair, show that a wife has been taken from 
the land 

"Where the short-legged Esquimaux 
"Waddle in the ice and snow." 

In the southern parts of the island there is apparently a 
considerable Irish infusion; and we often remark the "potato 
face " and the peculiar eye, with grey-blue iris and dark lashes 
so common in outer Galway, and extending to far Tenerife. 

It has been the fashion for travellers to talk of " our Scandi- 
navian ancestors in Iceland," to declare that the northern 
element is the "backbone of the English race," and to find 
that Great Britain owes to the hyperborean " her pluck, her 
go-ahead, and her love of freedom." 

That a little of this strong liquor may have done abundant 
good to the puerile, futile Anglo-Kelt, and the flabby and 

^ Innuit (Eskimo), like Illinois (from lUeni), means simply **a man" — a 
frequent tribal designation amongst savages. So Teuton and Deutsch, with the 
numberless derivations, are derived from Goth. Thiud, a people ; Alemanni 
from "All-men," and "German perhaps from Guerre-man" (Farrar, Families of 


phlegmatic Anglo-Saxon, there is no doubt, but happily we 
have not had a drop too much of northern blood. The islanders 
are by no means slow to claim descent from the old Jarls of 
Norway and Sweden, whilst some of the peasantry have asserted, 
and, it is said, have proved, consanguinity with the Guelphs : 
this would make them Germans, like the Eoyal Family of 
Denmark, who enjoy only poetical and laureated connection 
with the " Sea-Kings." Those who reject these pretensions reply 
that every noble house emigrating from Scandinavia in the 
ninth and tenth centuries brought with it a train of serfs and 
thralls; for instance, Njal headed nearly thirty fighting men, 
serviles included, and Thrain led fifteen house-carls trained to 
arms. And genealogical statistics prove that while the Jarl's 
blood dies out, the Carl's increases and multiplies. 

The Saga's description of Gunnar Hamondsson is that of a 
well-favoured Icelander in the present day : " He was handsome 
of feature and fair-skinned ; his nose was straight and a little 
turned up at the end (' tip-tilted') ; he was blue-eyed, and 
bright-eyed, and ruddy cheeked ; his hair was thick and of good 
hue, and hanging down in comely curls." And Skarphedinn 
Njalsson may stand forth as the typical " plain " Thulite : " His 
hair was dark-brown, with crisp curly locks ; he had good eyes ; 
his features were sharp, and his face ashen pale; his nose 
turned up, and his front teeth stuck out, and his mouth was 
very ugly." 

The Icelander's temperament is nervoso -lymphatic, and, at 
best, nervoso-sanguineous. The nervoso-bilious, so common in 
the south of Europe, is found but rarely ; and the author never 
saw an instance of the pure nervous often met with in the 
United States and the Brazil. The shape of the cranium is 
distinctly brachy cephalic, like the Teuton who can almost always 
be discovered by his flat occiput and his projecting ears. The 
face is rather round or square than oval ; the forehead often 
rises high, and the malar bones stand out strongly, whilst the 
cheeks fall in. A very characteristic feature of the race whose 
hardness, not to say harshness, of body and mind still dis- 
tinguishes it from its neighbours, is the eye, dure and cold as a 
pebble — the mesmerist would despair at the first sight. Even 


amongst tlie " gentler sex " a soft look is uncommonly rare, and 
tlie aspect ranges from a stoney stare to a sharp glance rendered 
fiercer by the habitual frown. Hence probably Uno Von Troil 
(p. 87) describes the women as generally ill-featured. The 
best specimens are clear grey or light blue, rarely brown and 
never black; and the iris is mostly surrounded by a ring of darker 
colour, the reverse of arcus senilis. Squints and prominent eye- 
balls, in fact what are vulgarly called " goggle eyes," are common; 
and even commoner, perhaps, are the dull colourless organs which 
we term " cods' eyes." The " Irish eye," blue with dark lashes, 
is still found in the southern part of the island, where, perhaps, 
thralls' blood is most common. A mild and chronic con- 
junctivitis often results from exposure to sun-glare after dark 
rooms and from reading deep into the night with dim oil lamps. 
The nose is seldom aquiline; the noble and sympathetically 
advancing outlines of the Mediterranean shores will here be 
sought for in vain.^ The best are the straight, the worst are 
offensive " pugs." Only in two instances, both of them men of 
good blood, I saw the broad open brows, the Grecian noses, 
the perpendicular profiles, the oval cheeks, and the chins full, 
but not too full, which one connects in idea with the Scandi- 
navian sea-king of the olden day. As a rule, then, the Icelandic 
face can by no means be called handsome. 

The oral region is often coarse and unpleasant. Lean lips are 
not so numerous as the large, loose, fleshy, and hordes or slightly 
everted, whilst here and there a huge mouth seems to split the 
face from ear to ear. The redeeming feature is the denture. 

^ The discovery of Uriconium and of Eoman remains throughout England, and 
even in London, during the last few years, strongly suggests that the beauty of the 
English race is derived from a far greater intermixture of southern blood than 
was formerly suspected ; and the racial baptism, repeated by the invasion of 
the Normans, must also have brought with it Gallo- Romans in considerable 
numbers. We can hardly doubt that the handsome peasantry of south-western 
Ireland is the produce of Spanish or Mediterranean innervation ; and a com- 
parison with the country people of Orotava in Tenerife, where the Irish have 
again mixed with the mingled Hispano-Guanche race, shows certain remark- 
able points of family likeness. On the other hand, except in certain parts 
of Great Britain, especially the Danelagh or Scandinavianised coasts and the 
counties occupied by the Angli and other Teutonic peoples, the English race 
remarkably differs from both its purer congeners, the homely Scandinavians and 
Germans. The general verdict of foreigners confirms its superior beauty, which, 
indeed, is evident to the most superficial observer. 


The teeth are short, regular, bright-coloured, and lasting, showing 
uncommon strength of constitution. They are rarely clean when 
coffee and tobacco are abused, and they are yet more rarely 
cleaned. Doubtless a comparatively scanty use of hot food 
tends to preserve them. The jowl is strong and square, and 
the chin is heavy, the weak "vanishing" form being very 
uncommon. The beard is sometimes worn, but more often 
clean shaved off; it seldom grows to any length, though the 
mustachios, based upon a large and solid upper lip, are bushy 
and form an important feature. Thick wliiskers are sometimes 
seen, and so are " Newgate friUs," from which the small foxy 
features stand sharply out. 

The other strong points are the skin and hair. The former is 
almost always rufous, rarely milanous, and the author never saw 
a specimen of the leucous (albino). The "positive blonde" is 
the rule; opposed to the negative or washed out blonde of 
Eussia and Slavonia generally. The complexion of the younger 
sort is admirably fresh, pink and white ; and some retain this 
charm till a late age. Its delicacy subjects it to sundry infirmi- 
ties, especially to freckles, which appear in large brown blotches ; 
exposure to weather also burns the surface, and converts rose 
and lily to an unseemly buff and brick-dust red. It is striated 
in early middle-age with deep wrinkles and it becomes much 
"drawn," the effect of what children call "making faces" in 
the sunKght and snow-blink. In the less wholesome parts of 
the island the complexion of the peasantry is pallid and 

Harfagr (Pulchricomus) is an epithet which may apply to 
both sexes. The hair, which belongs to the class Lissotriches, 
subdivision Euplokomoi, of Hseckel and Miiller (Allg. Ethno- 
graphic, 1873), seldom shows the darker shades of brown ; and 
in the very rare cases where it is black, there is generally a 
suspicion of Eskimo or Mongoloid blood. The colour ranges 
from carrotty-red to turnip-yellow, from barley-sugar to the 
hlond-cendre so expensive in the civilised markets. We find all 
the gradations of Parisian art here natural ; the " corn-golden," 
the Monde fulvide, the incandescent (" carrotty "), the flavescent 
or sulphur-hued, the heurre frais, the fulvastre or lion's mane, and 


the Tubide or maliogany, Eapliael's favourite tint. Tlie abomin- 
able Hallgerda's hair is the type of Icelandic beauty; it was 
"soft as silk and so long that it came down to her waist." 
Seldom straight and lank, the chevelure is usually wavy, curling 
at the ends, when short cut, as in England. The women have 
especially thick locks, which look well without other art but 
braiding, and many of the men have very 'bushy hair. As in 
the negro, baldness does not appear till a late age, and perhaps 
the Htifa (cap) by exposing the larger part of the surface acts 
as a preservative; old men and women, though anile beauty 
is very rare, are seen with grey and even wdiite locks excep- 
tionally thick. Canities comes on later than in Scotland and 
Sweden, yet scant attention is paid to the hair beyond washing 
at the brook. The body pile is as usual lighter coloured. 

The figure is worse than the face, and it is rendered even more 
uncouth by the hideous swathing dress. The men are remark- 
able for " champagne-bottle (unduly sloping) shoulders," " broad- 
shouldered in the backside," as our sailors say. They are seldom 
paunchy, though some, when settled in warmer climates, develop 
the schone corpulenz of the Whitechapel sugar-baker. They 
have the thick, unwieldy trunks of mountaineers, too long for 
the lower limbs — a peculiarity of hill-men generally, which 
extends even to the Bubes of Fernando Po. The legs are un- 
commonly sturdy ; the knees are thick and rounded, an unpro- 
mising sign of blood ; the ankles are coarse, and the flat feet are 
unusually large and ill-formed, like the hands, a point of re- 
semblance with the Anglo-Saxon pure and simple. Hence they 
are peculiarly fitted for their only manly sport, besides skating 
and' shooting, " Glimu list : " this wrestling has a " chic " of its 
own, though very different from the style of Cumberland and 
Cornwall. The gait, a racial distinction, is shambling and un- 
graceful, utterly unlike the strut of Southern Europe and the 
roll of the nearer East ; the tread is ponderous, and the light 
fantastic toe is unknown. This " wabble " and waddle result 
from the rarity of walking-exercise compared with riding and 
boating, and from the univeral use of the seal-skin slipper. The 
habit becomes a second nature : all strangers observe the national 
trick of rocking the body when sitting or standing to talk, and 


they mostly attribute it to the habit of weaving, when it is 
practised by thousands who never used a loom. The feminine 
figure is graceful and comparatively slender in youth, like the 
English girl of the " willowy type," but the limbs are large and 
ungainly. After a few years the " overblown " forms broaden 
out coarsely. Women do not draw the plough, as in Greece and 
parts of Ireland, but they must take their turn at all manner of 
field-work. The Frauen-cidtios, said to be a native of Europe 
north of the Alps, has not extended here, at least in these days.^ 
Hence the legs and ankles, hands and feet, rival in size and 
coarseness those of the men. As wives, they would be efficient 
correctives to the " fine drawn " framework and the over-nervous 
diathesis of southern nations. Cold in temperament, they are 
therefore, like the Irish, prolific, which may also result from the 
general fish-diet. Dr Schleisner, who resided in Iceland under 
the Danish Government, has proved the temperature of the blood 
to be higher than amongst other races. Assuming the average 
of Europeans at C. 36°*5 (= F. 97°*7), nine persons out of twelve 
exceeded C. 2>T (= E. 98°-6) : the maximum was C. 37°-8 (= E. 
100°) ; the minimum was C. 36°'5, and the average was C. 37°'27 
(= E.'99°-09).2 

Intermarriage is so general that almost all the chief families 
are cousins ; yet among several thousands the author saw only 
one hunchback, two short legs, and a few hare-lips. It is almost 
needless to say that the common infanticide of pagan days is 
now unknown, and that we must seek some other cause for the 
absence of deformity. It may be found, perhaps, in the purity 
of unmixed blood, which, mentioning no other instances, allows 
consanguineous marriages to the Jews, the Bedawin Arabs, and 
even to the Trasteverino Eomans ; ^ whereas composite and 

1 It appears probable that the reverence paid to women by the ancient Germans 
and Gauls arose from what Tacitus calls " some divine and prophetic quality- 
resident in tlieir women ; " from the superstitious belief that the weaker sex was 
more subject to inspiration, divination, second sight, and other abnormal favours 
of the gods. The Fraucn-cultus of the present age, which in the United States 
has become an absurdity, would be the relic and survival of this pagan fancy. 

2 The author cannot say whether due care was taken when making these obser- 
vations. Amongst Englishmen, when the tliermometer held in the mouth exceeds 
98° '5, there is suspicion of fever. 

^ Marquis Massimo d'Azeglio observed this fact among the paviours and the 
wine-carters, who form almost a separate caste of the Trans-Tiber population. 

136 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

heterogeneous races like the Englishman, the Spaniard, and 
especially the New Englander, cannot effect such unions without 
the worst results — idiocy and physical deformity. 

As regards uncleanliness in house and body, it may be said 
that the Icelander holds a middle rank between the Scotchman 
and the Greenlander, and he contrasts badly with the Norwegian 
of modern days. Personal purity, the one physical virtue of old 
age, is, as a rule, sadly neglected. Concerning this unpleasant 
topic, the author is compelled to offer a few observations. The 
old islander could rival the seal : his descendant, like the man 
of Joe Miller, will not trust himself in water before he can swim. 
The traveller never sees man or woman in sea, river, or brook, 
though even the lower animals bathe in hot weather. It is a 
race ahominantes aquam frigidam, and, even as pagans, their 
chief objection to Christianity was the necessity of baptism : 
they compounded for immersion in the Laug or hot spring,^ and 
the latter is still, though very seldom, used. Washing is con- 
fined to the face and hands ; and the tooth-brush is unknown like 
the nail-brush : the basins, where they exist, are about the size 
of punch-bowls. Purification by water, after Moslem fashion, 
is undreamed of Children are allowed to contract hideous habits, 
which they preserve as adults ; for instance, picking teeth, and 
not only teeth, with dinner-forks. Old travellers, who perhaps 
had not observed the cellarman in the wine vaults (London 
Docks) bore a hole and blow through it to start the liquor, record 
a peculiarly unpleasant contrivance for decanting the milk-pan 
into narrow-necked vessels ; the same, in fact, adopted by the 
Mexican when bottling his " Maguey ;" and " Blefkenius " alludes 
to a practice still popular amongst the Somal : it is only fair to 
own that the author never saw them. The rooms, and especially 
the sick rooms, are exceedingly stifling and impure. Those who 
venture upon an Icelandic bed may perhaps find clean sheets, 
but they had better not look under them. The houses, except 
in the towns, or the few belonging to foreign merchants, have no 
ofi&ces, and all that have, leave them in a horrible condition : 
there is no drainage, and the backyard is a mass of offal. Such 

^ Not always, as the common river-name Thvatt-a (wash or dip-water) proves. 


is the effect of climate, which makes dirt the " poor man's jacket " 
in the north ; which places cleanliness next to godliness in the 
sub-tropical regions, and which renders personal uncleanliness 
sinful and abominable to the quasi-equatorial Hindii. E"or must 
we forget that the old English proverb "Washing takes the 
marrow out of a man," still has significance amongst our 

§ 3. Charactee. 

Appreciations of national character too often depend upon the 
casual circumstances which encounter and environ the traveller ; 
and writers upon Iceland differ so greatly upon the matter, that 
perhaps the safest plan will be to quote the two extremes. 

The unfriendly find the islanders serious to a fault ; silent, 
gloomy, and atrabilious; ungenial and morose; stubborn and 
eternally suspicious; litigious and mordant; utterly deficient 
in adventure, doing nothing but what necessity compels ; little 
given to hospitality ; greedy of gain, and unscrupulous in the 
qitocumque modo rem. " Gaiety," says one, " seems banished 
from their hearts, and we should suppose that all are under the 
influence of that austere nature in the midst of which they were 

Henderson (i. 34), who represents the bright side of the 
picture, enlarges upon their calm and dignified, their orderly 
and law-abiding character ; he denies their being of sullen and 
melancholy disposition ; he was surprised at the degree of cheer- 
fulness and vivacity prevailing among them, and that, too, not 
unfrequently under circumstances of considerable external de- 
pression. They are so honest that the doors are not locked at 
night in their largest town ; strangely frank and unsophisticated ; 
ardent patriots and lovers of constitutional liberty; fond of 
literature, pious, and contented ; endowed with remarkable 
strength of intellect and acuteness ; brimful of hospitality, and 
not given to any crimes, or indeed vices, except drunkenness. 

And, upon the principle of allowing the Icelander to describe 
himself, we may quote as an exemplar of character the following 
model epitaph : " To the precious memory of A., S.'s son, who 


married the maiden C, D.'s daughter. He was calm in mind ; 
firm in council ; watchful, active, his friends' friend ; hospitable, 
bountiful, upright towards all, and the affectionate father of his 
house and children." 

The truth is, that although isolation has, as might be expected, 
preserved a marked racial character, the islandry are much like 
other Northmen. During the pagan times, and indeed until the 
sixteenth century, we read " their chief characteristics were 
treachery, thirst for blood, unbounded licentiousness, and in- 
veterate detestation of order and rule;" but we shall hardly 
recognise the picture now. They are truthful, and they appear 
pre-eminently so to a traveller from the south of Europe, or from 
the Levant. They have a sense of responsibility, and you may 
believe their oaths : at the same time, they look upon all men 
as liars, and they are as desconfiados (distrustful) as Paulistas or 
Laplanders — a mental condition apparently connected with a 
certain phase of civilisation. Compared with the sharp-v/itted 
Southron, they are dull and heavy, stolid and hard of compre- 
hension as our labouring classes, without the causes which affect 
the latter. They cleave like Hindus to the father-to-son prin- 
ciple, and they have little at home that tempts either to invention, 
to innovation, or to adventure. They are a " polypragmatic 
peasantry ; " the love of lawsuits still distinguishes the Norman 
in France after ages of separation from the parent stock. Even 
in private debate they obstinately adhere to the letter, and shun 
the spirit : an Icelander worsted in argument takes up some 
verbal distinction or secondary point, and treats it as if it were 
of primary importance. An exaggeration of this peculiarity 
breeds the Querelle d'Allemand. 

Another peculiarity of the islandry is a bitterly satirical turn of 
mind, a quality noted of old. We rarely meet with a " Thorkel 
Foulmouth," but we see many a Skarphedinn who delights and 
who takes pride in dealing those wounds of the tongue which 
according to the Arabs never heal. An ancient writer gives a 
fair measure of what could be done by NiSvisur^ (lampoons), 

^ These satirical songs are known to the Greenlanders, who thus satisfy their 
malice, "preferring to revenge even than to prevent an injury." Yet, the 
Icelanders have a proverb, ' ' Let him beware, lest his tongue wind round his 


whicli never spared even the kings. They threatened Harold 
the Dane to write as many lampoons upon him as there were 
noses ^ in Iceland (Olaf Tryggvason's Saga, xxxvii.), and escaped 
by magic from an invasion. Nor did they spare even the gods ; 
for instance, Hjalti sings (Burnt Nial's Saga) : 

*' I will not serve an idle log, 
For one, I care not which ; 
But either Odin is a dog 
Or Freya is a ." 

The term "TaS-skegglingar," Dung-beardlings, applied by a 
woman to certain youths wliom she hated, caused a small civil 
war. When Dr Wormius was Kector Magnificus of the Copen- 
hagen University, an Icelandic student complained of a libellous 
fellow-countryman. The poet, when summoned, confessed the 
authorshij) ; contended that it contained no cause of offence, 
and, with characteristic plausibility and cunning, talked over 
the simple Vice-Chancellor. Thereupon the plaintiff in tears 
told the Eector that his fair fame was for ever lost, explaining 
at the same time the "fables, figures, and other malicious 
designs under which the malignity of the satire was couched;" 
and even the " spells and sorceries " which threatened his life. 
Thereupon Dr Wormius took high gTound, and by citing certain 
severe laws against witchcraft, persuaded the poet to tear up 
his satire and never to write or to speak of it again. "The 
student was ravished with joy," because he had made his peace 
with a pest who could exceed in power of annoyance Aristo- 
phanes, Horace, and Juvenal. 

The courage, steadfastness, and pertinacity of the Icelander 
are proved by his annals, and if he does not show these qualities 
in the present day, it is because they are overlaid by circum- 
stances. As regards the relations of the sexes, we find nothing 
in the number of illegitimate children which justifies the poet in 
singing of the " moral north." ^ Iceland in fact must be reckoned 
amonsjst the 

1 Usually but erroneously translated "headlands," instead of "head of men." 

^ The popular assertion, "'nothing can be more natural than that female 

chastity should be more prevalent in a northern than in a southern climate," is 

simply a false deduction from insufficient facts. It is a subject far too extensive 

for a footnote ; we may simply observe that the Scandinavians have never been 


*' Littora quae fuerunt castis inimica puellis ;" 

and although she has improved upon the reckless licentiousness 
of the Saga days, ichthyophagy and idleness must do much to 
counterbalance the " sun-clad power of chastity." The " unso- 
phistication " of the race is certainly on the wane; there are 

"Honest men from Iceland to Barbadoes," 

but the islander is pre-eminent for a " canniness " which equals, 
if it does not exceed, that of the Yankee, the lowland Scotch, 
and the Maltese. And what he gains he can keep with a most 
tenacious hold. 

The statistics of crime in Iceland are peculiarly unsatisfactory. 
As the Journal will show, many a man goes free who would be 
prosecuted and severely punished farther south. Traveller after 
traveller has asserted, "it is in a large measure to their wide- 
spread home education that we must attribute the fine moral 
character of the Icelanders ;" and capital has been made of the 
fact that the old stone-prison became the Government House. 
The Danish Parliamentary Eeports (p. 255, vol. xlvii. for 1837- 
1838) contain details concerning the number of persons arraigned 
and convicted, sentenced, and acquitted by the tribunals. During 
a period of seven years (1827-1834), there were but 292 indict- 
ments on the island; of these 216 ended in conviction; 20 cases 
were suspended; 32 were dismissed, and 56 were acquitted. 
Of the 216 convictions, 79 were for "carnal offences;" 86 for 
larceny; 15 for transgressing sanitarial laws; 5 for murder, and 
31 for various offences, such as false-witness and receiving 
stolen goods. The last statistics in 1868 give 46 criminal cases 
(37 males, 9 females) for the whole island, and in 37 convic- 
tion and sentence followed; 34 were for theft, 1 for forgery, 
2 for adultery, besides 29 were fined for disturbance of the 
peace and for offences against public order. There were also 
57 cases of adultery and seduction; 24 of these were fined, and 
in 33 cases the fine was remitted (Skyrslur um Landshagi, v. 
193, 1871). 

distinguished for continence, nor are the northern more moral than the southern 
Slavs. In fact, the principal factor of feminine "virtue " seems to be race not 


The siiicide/ arson, and infant exposure of the republican 
and pagan ages are no longer heard of; vagrancy is hardly an 
offence; the state of the country prevents technical robbery; 
and forgery does not belong to its present state of civilisation. 
It is peculiar that almost all classes believe in and fear a tribe 
of outlaws or bandits who occupy the deserts of the interior — 
these are the days of Kobin Hood come again. 

§ 3. Society. 

The social condition of Iceland has been compared with Lord 
Macaulay's pictures of the Highlanders a hundred and fifty, and 
of the English three hundred years ago — the differences are more 
salient than the points of resemblance. The proverb " Heimskt er 
heimaSlia barn" (homely is the housebred child) produced a habit 
of voyaging and travelling; and wide wandering made the homes 
centres of refinement: the same practice in the Hebrides astonished 
Dr Johnson. Unhappily it is now no longer the popular habit ; it 
has gone the way of the manly exercises, bowls, quoits, swimming, 
and practising weapons, which distinguished the heroic age. 
With much aristocratic feeling there is no aristocratic order 
properly so called ; the earl, the baron, and the clan-chief are 
equally unknown ; whilst the parson, like the priest in Slavonic 
countries, is the modern pattern to the Thane or Churl. As in 
the United States, there is no gentlemen class except the Kberal 
professions, and even the clergy until the present generation 
were farmers and fishermen, labourers, mechanics, and so forth, 
often poorer and shabbier than the laity. The official cycles 
are too small to form a heamten-kreis ; the squirearchy is repre- 
sented by the franklins or peasant lairds, who no longer corre- 
spond with the ancient Udallers; the merchants are chiefiy 

^ "To go by the way of the rock" was the old pagan euphuism for self- 
destruction ; and the modern Hindu, as the Girnar Cliff shows, preserves the 
practice of "Altestupor" and "Odin's Hall." Suicide is now, like the duello, 
extinct, and the few cases recorded in late history are looked upon as phenomena. 
We remark the same rarity of self-destruction both in Scotland and Ireland, a 
wonderful contrast to England, Avhich, again, despite its ill-fame, shows favourably 
in this matter by the side of France. 

142 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

Under these circumstances we can hardly expect much 
general refinement, nor the particular phase which produces 
men whose life consists in adorning society, and women born 
to wear diamonds and to be beautiful. Yet the Icelander, 
franklin or pauper, has none of the roughness and rudeness 
which we remark in the manners of the Canadians and of the 
lowland Scotch. "No tax is levied upon civility," and their 
mutual regard for one another's feelings, though sometimes 
carried to an inconvenient extent, is the essence of true 
politeness. The intercourse is rather ceremonious than "free 
and easy," and travellers deride such quaint mixture as " You 
lie, my blessed (or beloved) friend!" The abuse of mutual 
regard is a servile fear of making enemies ; they often tamely 
put up with injuries, as the Brazilian submits to be plundered 
by a richer neighbour, and the Syrian swallows his wrath rather 
than offend one who may some day become a Pasha. 

The Icelander is a large-brained and strong-brained man, 
essentially slow and solid in point of intellect, and capable of 
high culture, of wide learning, and of deep research. This 
lesson is taught by the whole of his literature; although the 
muse no longer sings of love and war, she is by no means mute 
— her turn is now the theological, the philological, and the 
scientific. Arngrimr Jonsson well describes his countrymen as 
"Ad totius Europse res historicas lyncsei." But the islander 
never attains his full development except out of his own 
country, and this condition dates from past ages. Throughout 
the north, from England^ and Val-land (France and Italy), 
to MikligarSr (Constantinople),^ he has distinguished himself 
and proved 

"That every country is a brave man's home." 

^ The reader has only to remember how much of Britain was Danish to under- 
stand the Snorra-Edda's express statement about Icelanders and Englishmen 
speaking the same tongue, " Ver erum einnar tungu ; " and Bartolin (Antiquitatcs 
Danic?e), *' Eademque lingua (Norwegica seu Septentrionalis) usurpabatur per 
Saxonicum, Daniam, Sueciam, Norvegiam, et partem Anglire aliquani. " 

^ Their extensive travels gave them joeculiar names ifor peoples and places, 
which are often somewhat puzzling. "Th5'^skr," a German, and Gerzkr, a 
Eussian, are easy ; but Samverskt (a Samaritan) is not so plain. Thus, also, 
we have "Enea" for Europe ; "Hvltarmannaland," orwhite man's land, and "Irland 
et mikla," Ireland the Great (the Irlanda el Kablreh of Edrisi in the twelfth 
century), for South America; "SuSuralfa" {i.e., southern half), for Africa; 


Abroad, his emulation is excited, his ambition is roused, and 
his slow sturdy nature is stirred up to unusual energy. At 
home he can command no serious education, nor can he escape 
from the indolent and phlegmatic, the dawdling and absolutely 
unconditioned slowness of the country, where time is a positive 
nuisance, to be killed as it best can. In Iceland the author met 
several Danes, but only two Icelanders, who spoke good 
English, French, or German ; it is far otherwise in Europe, and 
especially, we need not say, in England. 

As the notices of emigration will show, Iceland, like Ireland, 
is instinctively seeking her blessing and salvation, the " racial 
baptism." One traveller records the " inexpressible attachment 
of the islanders for their native country." Their SeJm sucM in a 
mountainless land, and the time-honoured boast, " HiS besta 
land solin skinr uppa" (Iceland is the best land upon which 
the sun shines).^ So Bjarni Thorarensen sings, " "World-old 
Iceland, beloved foster-land, thou wilt be dear to thy sons, 
as long as sea girds earth, men love women, and sun shines on 
hills." But all the people of all the poorest countries console 
themselves in the same way, and geographical ignorance confirms 
an idea which to the traveller becomes simply ludicrous : more- 

"Great Sweden" for Eastern Russia; "SvalbarSi" (discovered 1194), for Scoresby's 
Liverpool Coast (?) ; "Bjarmaland" for Permia, the land beyond the North 
Cape ; "Seett" for Sidon ; ♦'Njorfa-fjortJ" for the Straits of *'Gib;" Ha-sterun 
for Hastings ; and " Katanes " (boat naze), for Caithness. Some names are of 
ethnological value ; for instance, " Bretland " for Wales ; while Vendill or Vandill, 
the northern part of Jutland, preserves the name of the Vandals and the origin of 
Andalusia; and GarSa-riki or GarSa-veldi, the empire of the GarSar or Castella, 
tells us how the Russian empire was founded. So SuSr-menn (Germans) opposed 
to Northmen (Nor^Smenn), preserves the tradition of original consanguinity. 
Others are useless complications, as Engils-nes, the Morea, and iEgisif {'■A.yia 2o0ia). 
The travestied names of persons are sometimes interesting, e.g., Elli-Sif (Scot. 
Elspeth) is Elizabeth, probably confounded like ^gisif, with Sif, the golden-haired 
wife of Thor, who lives in our gos-si]). Icelanders are not answerable for the mis- 
take so general amongst foreigners which makes NiSar-oss (Oyce or ostium of the 
NiS River) an alias of Throndhjem, of old Thrandheimr, when it is the name of the 
ancient city occupying the position of the present town. The ' ' Antiquites de 
rOrient " (par C. C. Rafn, Copenhagen, 1856) well shows how Icelandic names 
were applied to the Byzantine empire, e.g., 'Eo-crofTr?; {ei sofa, not to sleep), given 
to the first bar of the Dnieper ; OvXSopai (Holm-fors or islet-force) to the second, 
and so forth. 

1 " This assertion of travellers never had any foundation in fact," says Mr Jon 
A. Hjaltalln, yet it is quoted by Henderson, the least imaginative, and, in such 
matters, the most trustworthy of men ; and the Icelandic proverb says, * ' One's 
own home is the best home." 

144 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

over, northerners, it need hardly be said, gain more by removal, 
and therefore emigrate more readily than southerners. The 
latter express themselves unmistakably : 

*' 'Av8pl yap toi, kolv virepSdWri Ka/cots 
Ovu ^cTTL dpe^paPTOS ijdiov Tridof." 

And " Ulysses ad Ithacae suae saxa properat, quemadmodum 
Agamemnon ad Mycenarum nobiles muros ; nemo enim patriam 
amat quia magna, sed quia sua " (Seneca), They are happy at 
home ; why should they leave home ? 

The Icelander cannot be called degenerate. He is what he was. 
But whilst the world around, or rather beyond him, has pro- 
gressed with giant strides, he has perforce remained stationary. 
His mother country forbids him to decuple the human hand 
and arm by machinery; the enormous water-power of his rivers 
is useless, and thinness of population bars out the appliances of 
civilisation — how can he expect to hold a fair place in the race 
of life ? Moreover, like another small and heroic kingdom, 
modern Greece, Iceland has suffered from ages of virtually 
foreign dominion, not to say tyranny, and from restrictions of 
trade, which, smaU as items, combined to form a system of 
grinding oppression. His brightest days were those when, like 
the Goth and Hun, the Arab and the Tartar, he devoted himself 
to plundering the wealthy weak. But the times for these 
nomad incursions are past, until at least China can renew them ; 
and he hopelessly sank when no longer able to harry the 
southern islands, to break down London bridge, to plunder and 
and massacre Luna, and to spread 

*' Beneath Gibraltar to the Lybian sands." 

His future career is in his own hands, and improvement must 
be sought in extended stock-breeding, in better use of the 
fisheries, and in extensive emigration. With free institutions he 
will bring to the task the same high and steadfast spirit which 
distinguished him in his prime. Anthropologists justly object 
to the popular theory of a nation degenerating, unless, indeed, 
there be a mixture of foreign and inferior blood ; but they see 
everywhere in history the decline and fall of races, whenever the 


stronger neiglibouring peoples rise to the same or to a higher 
level of civilisation. The Koman and the Athenian still greatly 
resemble the conquerors of Europe and Asia, but in those days 
the Gauls and the Germans, the Scandinavians and the Britons, 
were mere barbarians, uneducated and undisciplined. Now all are 
on a level, and, as we saw in the late Franco-Prussian war, the 
physically strongest wins — the north beats, and will ever beat, 
the south. 

The islanders, like their brother Scandinavians and the 
Teutons, had no idea of towns. We may apply to them the 
description of Tacitus (Germ., c. xvi.), " NuUas Germanorum 
populis urbes habitari satis notum est . . . colunt discreti ac 
diversi, ut fons, ut campus, ut nemus placuit." In Norway the 
first town, M5ar-6s, 'par excellence called Kaupang, was built by 
the two Olaves (0. Tryggvason or Trusty-son, and 0. Helgi the 
Saint) in a.d. 994-1030; the real founder of cities was Olave 
the Quiet (1067-1093). Thus in old Norse codes the Town-law 
is an appendix to the Land-law. As late as 1752, Eeykjavik 
was a single isolated farm. 

It is strange how little the style of Iceland life has altered 
since the time (1767) when M. de Kerguelen wrote his short 
and lively sketch — it seems to be fixed like the language. As 
now, the island was divided into four provinces, of which each 
had eighteen to twenty counties, and every county fifteen to 
sixteen parishes. The Syslur were under bailiffs, all subject 
to the grand bailiff (Governor), and to the sovereign council 
(Althing). The chief civil officer and the royal seneschal (trea- 
surer), who collected the taxes, reported to a governor-general 
residing at Copenhagen — he is now represented by the minister 
for Iceland. There were two bishops, one for the south (Skal- 
holt), and another for the north (Holar); there is at present only 
one in the capital, but the people would willingly see, and will 
see, the older status restored. 

The Iceland farm-house^ was then, as now, a set of buildings 
scattered over the " tun," or infield. The abode was entered by 

^ As every traveller, from Uno Von Troil downwards, has given a plan and 
sketcli of the Bser, the reader need not be troubled with them. The group of 
buildings composing the actual homestead is invariably built in a row : the front 
VOL. I. K 


a passage (Bsejar-dyr) six feet wide, with a cross-raftered roof, 
and this " Skemma " was lighted by windowlets (Skjagluggi) of 
" Himna" (membrane), transparent parchment of cattle's bladder; 
by Likna-belgur, ewe's chorion; by Vats-belgur, sheep's amnion; 
or by Sksena, inner membranes of the stomach, a little more 
opaque, or, rarely, by bulls' eyes of glass. They were not the only 
tenements in the eighteenth century which had no light — 

" Save one dull pane, that, coarsely patched, gives way 
To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day." 

Fronting the common entrance was the Ba5stofa (public room, 
literally meaning bathroom), measuring fourteen ells by eight, in 
which the household worked at dressing wool and weaving cloth. 
It led to a bedroom, where the house master and mistress slept, 
the children and servants occupying the garrets and cock-lofts. 
On each side of the lobby were two rooms, the kitchen (Eld-hus, 
opposed to the stofa or gynseceum), and the store-room or Bur 
(our " bower," and the Scottish " byre"); the dairy and the guest- 
chamber (Gestaskali). At present the entrance is usually faced 
by the kitchen, and at right angles there is a covered gallery or 
tunnel, upon which the doors open: thus the rooms are not 
wholly dark, even when they lack glass, which is rare.-^ The 
outhouses (iJti-htis) were the stables, the stores (Geymslu-hus), 
the byres, the sheep pens (Fjar-htis), the forge, and, sometimes, 
the carpenter's shop. The house (Baejar-hus or Heima-hus) was 
built of planks, which, coming from Copenhagen, were too ex- 
pensive to be used as flooring. The only fire was in a stove; the 
fuel was of turf and cow-" chips," and the interior was never 

(Hus-bust) faces south, towards the sea or the river, if in a valley, and the back 
is turned to the sheltering mountain. The strip of flagged pavement along the 
front is called "St^tt;" the open space before it, "Hla9;" the buildings are 
parted by a lane (Sund) ; the approach is termed "Geilar" or "TroS," and the 
whole is surrounded by the Htisa-garSr, a dry-stone dyke. 

The Norse Skali, or Hall of classical days, whose rude and barbarous magnifi- 
cence was the result of successful piracy tempered by traffic, has clean vanished — 
there is not a trace of one upon the island. A ground-plan, section, and elevation, 
are given in Mr Dasent's " Burnt Njal," but it is hard to say how much of it 
came from the fertile brain of the artist, Mr SigurSr GuSmundsson. It was pro- 
bably about as " desirable " a " residence " as the old "Welsh manor-house, with 
its stagnant moat and its banks or walls of earth. 

^ The author well remembers that at Hyderabad, in Sind, only one palace had 
the luxury of glass, when we first occupied the city. 


dry — the unrheumatic traveller will not find that damp of which 
the many complained. The furniture consisted of a table and 
chests acting chairs ; Niels Horrebow, the Dane who saw every- 
thing en heme, added wainscots, glasses, and a variety of luxuries. 
Johann Anderson, afterwards burgomaster of Hamburg, by no 
means wore the rose-coloured spectacles. 

" The people appeared mild, good-natured, and humane, but 
distrustful and addicted to drink They were very fond of chess, 
and good coasting sailors, hut not very coiorageoics " — no wonder, 
considering their craft ! They soon became infirm ; they were old 
at fifty, and they rarely reached eighty. " Landsarsak " (Landfar- 
sott^) was the name given to all fatal illnesses usually arising from 
scurvy, wet feet, and want of exercise. Their hay was not housed, 
but heaped in stacks two yards square, upon raised mounds, at 
short distances, and covered with sloping turf to lead the rain into 
surrounding ditches. In summer food was of cods'-heads, boiled 
like all other provisions : in winter the peasants ate sheeps'- 
heads kept in (fermented) vinegar of sour milk (Syra), or in juice 
of sorrel (Sura),^ and other plants, the mutton being sold. Bread 
was not the staff of life, being eaten only on high days and 
holidays, that is, at births, marriages, and deaths: the richer 
sort baked cakes, broad and thin, like sea biscuits, of black rye 
flour from Copenhagen. 

The men dressed like sailors in breeches, jackets acting coats, 
and vests of good broadcloth, with four to six rows of buttons, 
always metal, copper or silver. The fishermen wore overalls, 
coarse smooth waistcoats, large paletots of sheepskin or leather, 
made water-proof by grease or fish-liver oil; leather overalls, 
stockings, and native shoes. The women were clad in jackets 
and gowns, petticoats and aprons of woollen frieze, over which 
was thrown a " Hempa," or wide black robe, like a Jesuit frock, 
trimmed with velvet binding. The wealthy added silver orna- 
ments down the length of the dress, and braided the other articles 

^ Sott is applied to physical, Sut to mental, sickness. 

^ More will be said concerning the several varieties of oxalis, which the people 
now seem to despise. Both wood-sorrel and meadow-sweet (Spircea) were used by 
the poor of Ireland to heal ulcers (Beddoes, p. 47, on the Medical Use and 
Production of Factitious Airs). Uno Von Troil (p. 108) gives a long list of the 
popular anti-scorbutics. 


with silk ribbons, galloon, or velvets of various colours. The 
ruff was a stiff collar from three to four inches broad, of very 
fine stuff, embroidered with gold or silver. The head-dress was 
a cone like a fool's-cap or sugar-loaf, two to three feet tall, kept 
in place by a coarse cloth, and covered with a finer kerchief. 
The soleless shoes of ox-hide or sheep-skin, made by the women 
out of a single piece, were strapped to the instep. 

The wives were not so strong as the husbands, yet they had 
the hardest work in haymaking. Their labour was difficult, and 
they " kept their beds for a week." At baptism a bit of linen 
dipped in milk was placed in the babe's mouth, and the child 
was breeched at the end of two years. 

§ 4. The Family. 

Population was checked by not allowing marriage to a man 
who did not own a hundred of land or a six-oared boat in trim : 
this wholesome law, however, is becoming obsolete as the fero- 
cious old code which prevented the propagation of paupers. 
The number of births is about 2940 to 2020 deaths per annum : 
thus the annual increase is 920, but the mortality of children is, 
or perhaps we should say was, disproportionate. In 1858, 489 
upon the island died between the ages of 1 to 5, and 68 between 
5 to 10 — a total of 557. During the same year the number of 
illegitimate to legitimate births was 15 : 100 : this figure appears 
pretty constant, but rather on the increase than the reverse. 
In the early nineteenth century. Hooker gives 383 illegitimates 
in 2516 bhths = 15^ per cent. = nearly to 1 : 7 — a high 
average, which he explains by the huddling together of families. 
Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (1866) gives 1 : 6*9 of births. Statistics 
of the years between 1860 and 1870 give 20 : 100, or 1 : 5. 
The Consular Eeport of 1870-71 asserts that "in every 100 births 
there were 17 of illegitimate children," and shows the following 
figures: 1866, 17-7; 1867, 16-7; 1868, 17*2; 1869, 16-2; 1870, 

Of 2937 children, only 48 were born (1858) of mothers under 
20 ; 23 were legitimate, and 25 were not : 458 had mothers aged 


20 to 25 : 933, of whom 764 were born in wedlock and 169 were 
not, had mothers aged 25 to 30 : the mothers of 703 new-born 
children were 30 to 35 years old ; those of 549, from 35 to 40 ; 
those of 221 from 40 to 45 ; and, lastly, those of 25, from 45 to 50. 

In the same year, 3 men committed suicide ; 65 were drowned ; 
17 perished by accidents, and 1939 died of disease. The smallest 
number of deaths (128) occurred in February, the coldest month ; 
and the greatest number (205) in July, the warmest. 

There is little of novelty in the religious ceremonies accom- 
panying baptisms, marriages, and funerals, which are those of the 
Augsburg rite ; but there is something to say upon the subject of 
names. Until the middle of the last century, the surnames, as 
in olden Kent, were all patronymics or matronymics ; such was 
the ancient fashion of Europe, especially of England and Ger- 
many, a custom still preserved by the great Slav race {vich or 
ich), and by the modern Greeks, who prefer -poulo and who 
almost ignore the ancient -ides. It is notorious how Linne 
(Linnaeus), the prince of naturalists, was prompted by the grow- 
ing use of family names to devise the generic and speciiic dis- 
tinctions, which superseded a system cumbrous and intricate as 
that of a Chinese dictionary. In very thinly populated countries, 
where every man knew his neighbour, it was possible to be called 
Jon Jonsson ^ and Caroline Jonsdottir, but so rude a plan would 
not serve elsewhere. We still find it in the country parts of 
Iceland, and, curious to say, the people are returning to the old 
fashion of taking the paternal name as surname. The matronymic, 
e.g., Sveinn AstriSarson, in early times was assumed when the 
mother outlived the father : it was never a mark of base blood ; 
as amongst the Spaniards, where El Hijo de ruin padre, Toma el 
apelido de la madre. 

In 1855, a curious official paper was published under the title 
" Um Mannaheiti a Islandi." It shows that the island has only 
63 native surnames, and 530 men's and 529 women's Christian 
names : no wonder that " nicknames " are common as amongst 

^ Of course the first sibilant, the sign of possession, is not used when the 
noun is otherwise declined. For instance, Jon Arason, often written by foreigners 
Arseson, is the son of Are, whose oblique case is Ara ; yet there are popular excep- 
tions, e.g., Bjarnarson (pron. Bjatnarson), son of Bjorn, is vulgarly pronounced, 
and even written, Bjornsson. 


Moslems and Brazilians. Hence local cognomens are also much 
used, as Peter of Engey, and Jon of the " Strond," i.e., the coast 
from HafnafjorS to Keblavik. The popular address would be 
Herra Bonde (Mr Farmer), Herra Hreppstjori (Mr Constable), or 
" Good day, comrade ! " sounding very republican, and accom- 
panied by a resounding kiss. 

Every fifth man appears to affect, in one of five forms, the 
fourth Evangelist. Jon (Johns, 4827), Johannes (498), Johann 
(494), Hannes (154), and Hans (80), making a total of 5053. 
On the other hand, whilst Odin has disappeared, Thor, in com- 
pounded shape, enters into 2010 male and 1875 female " Chris- 
tian" names = 3885. GuSrtin^ numbers 4363; Marguerite, 
1654; yet Marias, elsewhere so common,^ are only 384; and 
Eosas decline to 269. Amongst historical names, we find 122 
Saemundr; of Biblical names, even the quaintest and the most 
Hebraical, such as Samson, Samuel, and Solomon, Jael, and 
Judith, are here common as in all Protestant countries : Catholics 
more wisely avoid them, leaving them to their original Jewish 
owners. The western counties affect the strangest terms, such 
as Petra, Petrea, Petrina, Petulina, and Tobia, a feminine. And 
throughout the island there is arising a new fashion of combining 
names almost as ingenious as that of the Latter-Day Saints. 
For instance, the daughter of Brynjolfur by Thordis will be called 
Bryndis ; the son of Saemundr by Elina is named Elinmundr. 
Of course nothing can be more barbarous, but what does " fashion" 
care for barbarism ? 

In pagan times the wife was often assisted by FriSlas or super- 
numeraries, and, though she was liable to be exchanged or 
loaned, as was the case amongst the jDolished Hindtis, the Greeks, 

^ Thus the islanders preserve the memory of a "beautiful fiend," one amongst 
many, who, after a very human fashion, began life as a coquette, and ended it as 
a devote, being the first to learn psalm-singing, and to take the veil in the new 
convent. This hyperborean Ninon de L'Enclos deserves forgiveness for one of 
the cleverest sayings uttered by woman — a revelation of its kind. When asked 
which of her half-a-dozen lovers and husbands she preferred, her wise and 
witty answer was, " Theim var ek verst, er ek unnti mest " — " Whom I treated 
worst, him I loved most ; " alluding to Kjartan Olafsson, murdered by her behest. 
In old days, Gudr6n and John answered to the " M. or N." of our Catechism, 
and to " those famous fictions of English law, John Doe and Richard Roe." 

2 This is probably a relic of early ages, when ** Maria" was a name too much 
revered for general use. 


and the Eomans, she could put away her baron for so slight an 
offence as wearing a chemisette, or any other article of feminine 
attire. The simple process was to declare before witnesses that 
they twain ceased to be one flesh. The marriage tie sat almost 
as lightly upon Icelanders as upon Scandinavians generally, 
even in the Catholic days : since the introduction of Lutheran- 
ism, it has, as we might expect, been still less binding.^ We 
may therefore conclude that a certain love of change is in such 
matters a characteristic of the race. At present every ;peine 
infamante allows divorce ; and incompatibility of temper, shown 
by three years of separation, with the consent of the mayor, is a 
plea of sufficient force to claim from the Minister of Justice at 
Copenhagen freedom a mensd et thoro. Both parties are able to 
remarry, and they may be reunited, unless they have miscon- 
ducted themselves whilst living apart ; in this case they must 
obtain a dispensation from the chanceUerie of the empire. 

§ 5. Diseases. 

It is calculated that the yearly deaths at Eeykjavik average 
59-60, and this figure, if correct, is high for the population, in 
1870 only 2024, now at most 2500. For instance, the mean of 
London being 19 per 1000, and all England 20'8, to say nothing 
of Glastonbury, Eeykjavik, with the most favourable calculations, 
would be 24.^ With more attention to hygiene, the headquarter 
village should not show a death-rate exceeding 17 : 1000 — the 
beau-ideal of the modern sanitarian. 

The list of diseases is so extensive that little beyond the 
names can be mentioned. They result mainly from the utter 
absence of hygiene ; from want of cleanliness ; from bad living, 
hardship, and fatigue; and from exposure to cold, especially after 
living in close and heated rooms. The latter is a fertile source 
of ill-health : so at St Petersburgh the higher classes suffer from 

1 Yet the Polygamia Triumphatrix (Liseri) of Lund, a.d. 1682, was publicly 
burned at Stockholm. 

2 We may add, Paris, 23 ; Berlin, 25 ; Panama, 26 ; Bombay, 27 ; New York, 
28; Glasgow, 34; Madras, 35; Vienna, 36; and Kome the SEime, if not more. 

152 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

the maladies of Calcutta, hepatalgia, jaundice, and spleen-enlarg- 
ments ; and, after a certain number of " seasons," they must seek 
health in the Crimea, or in Southern Europe. Hence the fond- 
ness of Icelanders for sour food which equals that of the acid- 
loving citizens of Damascus. The pudding of the island is Skjrr, 
which the Dictionary wrongly translates " curdled milk, curds," 
and which Eafn derives from the Sanskrit Kshira (milk) : it is 
the Khir of Sind and Belochistan ; the Laban of Arabia ; the Dahin 
of Hindostan ; the Saure-milch of South Germany ; the Kisalina 
of Styria and Slavland, and the Hattelkit or Corstorphine Cream 
of Scotland.^ Icelanders eat it with sugar, which gives it a sickly 
taste. Hence the use of acid butter ; of Mysuost, or whey cheese, 
brown, and not unlike guava cheese ; of Valle, fermented whey, 
somewhat Hke Koumiss ; of Syra, or sour whey, acting small beer, 
and used in pickles like vinegar ; of Stir mjolk, or sour milk ; and 
of Blanda, the favourite drink, half whey and half water, into 
which blueberries, and black, crake, or crow berries (Icel. Krsek- 
juber, Empetrum haccis nigris) are sometimes infused. And 
hence, finally, the use of Korn-siira {Polygonum viviparum), 
Cochlearia (officinalis and Danica), trefoil (T. repens), Sedum 
Acre (house leek), and other social plants, which are considered 
antiseptic and antibilious. 

The skin diseases are alopecia, herpes, and psora inveterate 
as on the Congo Eiver. " St Anthony's fire " was cured by bind- 
ing live earth-worms upon the part afflicted. Scurvy (Skyr- 
bjugr) results from "thinness of blood," induced by want of 
proper nourishment, especially by the overuse of salt and dried 
meat and fish : the increased growth of vegetables, not to speak 
of medicines, has much modified its malignancy. Measles and 
scarlatina are rare, but periodical attacks of smallpox, which 
often appear in history ,2 still compel the capital to convert one 

^ Thus Skyr is a congener of the Persian "Shir" and of the Slav Sir (cheese). 
The first stage is the "run-milk," the second is the "hung-milk " (because sus- 
pended in a bag) of the Shetland Islands. Everywhere it is differently turned ; 
by sour whey in Iceland, by buttermilk in Scotland, and by rennet and various 
plants in Asia and Africa. No milk-drinking nation drinks, as a rule, fresh 
milk. The Icelanders want the manifold preparations known to the Scoto- 
Scandinavian islands, 

^ Dr (afterwards Sir Henry) Holland introduced, or rather first brought, the 
vaccine virus. 


of the best houses into an hospital. In 1872, it was occupied 
by French fishermen only ; there was no case among the natives. 
The author did not see a single instance of the protean and the 
most cosmopolitan of diseases, whose various phases are known 
as Lepra Arabum, Leuce, and Mai Kouge; Leontasis, or Facies 
leonina; Elephantias, Elephantiasis, and Barbadoes Leg. It is 
known to old writers as " Icelandic scurvy," to the islanders as 
Lik-thra-sott, or corpse-pang, which Henderson translates, a 
rotten, rancid corpse ; ^ Holdsveiki, or flesh-weakness, and Spital- 
ska ('Spital sickness), the latter being the biblical term. When 
the extremities drop off, the term generally applied was Limafall- 

In the ninth century, leprosy required some 19,000 hospitals 
in Europe ; and it has perhaps lingered longest in the Faeroes 
and in Iceland. Here, curious to observe, its very headquarters 
were about Skagi and Eeykjanes, the best and mildest climates. 
A few cases still remain, but the establishments built in Catholic 
days have not been kept up by the Eeformation, perhaps show- 
ing the want to be less urgent. The horrid malady is evidently 
dying a natural death, like others which have yielded their 
places to new comers, or which are gradually disappearing, with- 
out leaving issue. The best authorities explain the change by 
the use of bromide of potassium and the increase of vegetable 
diet. And to the question of Aretseus, "Sed qusenam medela 
excogitari poterit, quae Elephantem, tam ingens malum, expug- 
nari digna est ? " Iceland answers, fearless of Cobbett, the 
potato. The latter has taken the place of the old-fashioned 
simples, the tops and berries of juniper {J. communis), of Dryas 
odopelata, of Vaccinmm myrtillus (bilberries), of Sanguisorbs, 
and of similar sub-acid tonics. 

It is impossible to enter into a subject which has filled many 
a volume, but it may briefly be stated that no cosmical cause of 
leprosy has ever been discovered ; and that what seems to ac- 
count for its origin in one place, completely fails in another. 
India, especially Malabar, attributes it to biliary derangements, 
caused by fish and milk diet. The Brazil, like the Jews, the 

1 From Lik, Germ. Leiche, Eng. Lych, as in lych-gate, and Tlira, a throe or 
pang. Hold is flesh. 

154 ULTIMA thule; or, 

Moslems, and other pig-liaters, refers it to pork; Syria and 
Palestine, ignoring the " impure," declare it to result from atav- 
ism and inheritance. Iceland remarks that it was worst when 
men wore woollen garments ; and similarly Sir George Staunton 
assigns the modern exemption of Europe to the general use of 

Peirce declares that syphilis (introduced, according to Uno 
Von Troil, about A.D. 1753), chlorosis, mania a potu, caries of the 
teeth and intermittent fevers are unknown, or almost unknown. 
He is certainly incorrect with respect to the latter complaint ; 
typhus and various febrile affections are very common in the 
finest and warmest months, when many of the peasantry show 
signs of "malaria." Pleurisy is popularly supposed to be in- 
fectious. Eachitis, called in Norway the " English sickness," be- 
cause it is supposed to have passed over in late years from 
Britain to France, Holland, and Germany; scrofula and con- 
sumption are rare. Chiragra is attributed by old writers to 
"handling wet fishing tackle in cold weather."^ The trismus 
infantium seu neonatorum, called " ginklofi " when opisthenous, 
and " klums " if emprosthonous, has raged like a plague, especi- 
ally at Heimaey, one of the Vestmannaeyjar. The children, 
contrary to the practice of all wild peoples, were weaned after 
the first week, and were fed upon the flesh of the foul mollie, or 
fulmar-petrel: the same was once the case at St Kilda, with 
similar results. At Heimaey, 64 per cent, of babes have died 
between the fifth and the twelfth days after birth : since a medical 
man was stationed there, the tetanus has been arrested ; and of 
20 births, only a small proportion has been lost. 

The other complaints are catarrhs, influenzas (where the stars 
have little " influence "), and chronic rheumatisms, the latter an 
especial plague; hysteria, gout, and arthrites, constipation and 
diarrhoeas, very prevalent during spring. The endemic echino- 
coccus and cysticercus, affecting one-seventh of the population, 
are subjects of remarkable interest, which have been treated at 

' . ■ 

^ This, like other forms of gout, certainly depends much upon the popular 
beverage. In England we find it amongst the beer-drinking poorer classes : 
Padua, the author was informed by the celebrated Dr Pinalli, does not produce 
a single case even to lecture upon. 


considerable length. No less than seven species of hydatids have 
been detected in dogs. An able analysis of writings upon these 
internal cysts, causing "liver-complaints" and "staggers," will 
be found in Schmidt's Jahrbiicher der in-und Auslandischen 
Gesammten Medecin (No. Y., Band 134 of 1867, and No. X., 
Band 152 of 1871). The principal northern authorities quoted 
are Hjaltalin, Jon Finsen, Krabbe, Thorarensen, and Skaptason. 



§ 1. Education. 

All Icelanders can read and write more or less, they learn 
the three E's to say nothing of the fourth E(evolution) ; but 
this alphabetic state of society may consist, as in the ParagTiayan 
Eepublic under Dr Erancia and the two Presidents Lopez, with 
a profound state of barbarism. In Iceland, however, the press 
is not trammeled ; and the newspaper, as will appear, holds its 
own. During the last generation it was otherwise. Education, 
a domestic growth, ignored modern science and especially 
mechanics; reading, indeed, was confined to Saga -history and 
theology, both equally detrimental to mental training and to 
intellectual progress. It is still of home manufacture : the high 
school exists but not the school, and in so thinly populated 
a country we can hardly expect the latter. At Eeykjavik pri- 
vate tuition may be found; and throughout the country some 
clergymen prepare scholars. But the pursuit of knowledge is 
evidently carried on under difficulties ; " their learning is like 
bread in a besieged town, every man gets a mouthful, but no 
man a bellyful." 

Christian III., the Eeformer, ordered a school to be built near 
each cathedral church — a Moslem action which did him honour. 
Skalholt had forty, and Holar thirty-four students when the high 
school, which, as in the United States, is called the "Latin school," 


was removed to Eeykjavik in 1801 ; in 1805 it was transferred to 
BessastaSir, and in 1846 it again returned to the capital. Bishop 
Petursson (p. 365, et seq.) gives the fullest account of the estab- 
lishment till 1840. In 1834 Dillon found the whole number re- 
duced to forty, of whom some received stipends of $33, and others 
of J60 per annum. In 1872 the total of scholars was sixty-three; 
the maximum being eighty-eight and the minimum fifty-eight ; 
of these forty are distributed amongst the dormitories, and board 
with different families in the town ; twenty-three are day scholars 
residing with their families or friends. The lads matriculate after 
confirmation, if from the country ; and the usual ages are fourteen 
to seventeen. They are separated into four classes (Icel. Bekkur; 
Dan. Classe), but No. 3 is subdivided into A and B ; thus making 
the total five. No. 4 also demands similar treatment, but room is 
wanted and also money to fee extra professors. No. 1, which is 
the junior class, studies Icelandic, Danish, Thysku^ (German), 
and Latin, as far as Csesar and Phsedrus ; Bible history and theo- 
logy, general history, geography, and zoology. No. 2 continues 
these items and introduces the student to mathematics, Greek, 
and English. No. 3 adds geology, mineralogy, and botany ; and 
No. 4 French and general information. The course lasts six 
years, ending with the maximum age of twenty-three ; after which 
the scholar is " demissus " and can become a " candidat " of theo- 
logy, or devote himself to law or physic. The shorter holidays 
are from December 23 to January 3, and from Holy Wednesday 
to the Wednesday after Easter Sunday. The long vacation is 
that of our venerable universities, originally designed for allow- 
ing poor scholars to beg and to take part in the all-important 
labours of ingathering the harvest; between July 1 and October 1 

^ Th^verjaland, or Thjo^Jverjaland, is Teuton-land, Germany, the adjectival 
forms being Th^Sverskr, Th^zkr, and Th^eskr. Icelandic here has evidently 
horrowed from the Gothic Thjuth, the German Diutisc (Diutisch or Tiusch), the 
low Latin Theotiscus, and the modern Teutsch or Deutsch, through traders in the 
eleventh or twelfth century (Cleasby). But Rafn (Antiquites de I'Orient, p. xlix.) 
quotes the Roman de Rou of Robert Wace : 

** Cosne sont en thioiz et en normant parler," 

to show that the two terms were applied to a single tongue. From the old root 
come the Italian Tedesco and the English "Dutch," which the vulgar in the 
United States still persistently apply to Germans. Schoning (p. 310, Copenhagen, 
1777) and Laing (Heimskringla, iii, 349) confused Th^zkr with " Turkish! " 


being the busy time at home : moreover, the lads have a long 
and a hard way to travel. The high school year is thus of nine 

The students are known by their " signums," a lyre in circle 
borne upon the cap-band, but some appear to prefer the cross as 
a badge. In the college they rise at 6.30 A.M., and if not dressed 
and ready by 7 a.m. they are reprimanded. At that hour they 
drink coffee with sugar and milk, and fifty minutes afterwards 
they go to chapel, which lasts till 8 a.m. The morning lectures 
now begin, and at 10.45 a.m. they are dismissed to a breakfast of 
coffee, bread and butter, cold fish, and sometimes meat.^ The 
pupils do not take their meals in the school building, but at the 
different houses where they board. No stimulants whatever are 
allowed, nor must the pupils smoke, snuff, nor chew in or about 
the buildings, but of course they can indulge outside it. The 
second lecture then continues from 11.15 to 2 p.m., after which 
two hours are given to recreation and dinner of hot fish or meat. 
Till 7 p.m. the studies for the next day are prepared ; and supper, 
cold like the breakfast, leads to more private reading between 
8 P.M. and 10 p.m., at which time all boarders must be in college. 
The day ends in the chapel, hymns accompanying the prayers ; 
and all are in bed at 10.45, or 11 p.m. on Sundays and festivals. 
Thus there are five and a haK hours of lectures ; five of prepara- 
tion for the next day, and seven hours thirty minutes for sleep. 
Punishments are confined to degradation in the class and, in ex- 
treme cases, to expulsion ; of course there is no flogging, and the 
prison and unsalutary semi-starvation of the French college are 
equally unknown. Fasts are not kept, even after the fashion of 
Oxford, which, in the author's day, noted " abstinence " by the 
addition of fish. 

Public examinations take place every year about mid- June ; 
they are held in the first-floor front hall of the building where 
the Althing meets. They begin with writing, a professor walk- 

^ For a full account of the ancient dietary as prescribed by law in 1789, see 
Baring- Gould, p. 29. The items are meat and peas ; sausages cold and warm ; 
meat, broth, and soup ; haddock and flounder ; stock fish and butter ("the staff 
of life ") ; skyr (not curd) and cold milk ; meal-grout, buckwheat-porridge, and 
barley-water grout with milk and butter. 

158 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

ing about to prevent " cribbing," and they end in vivd voce. These 
determine the students' claims to the stipendia, of which there 
are three grades. There are twenty-six Heil-Olmusa ^ (whole 
scholarships), each of 1 100 per annum ; twenty-four Half-Olmusa 
of $50, and four Quarter-Olmusa, the latter often not distributed. 
Moreover, those who proceed for study to the University of 
Copenhagen are entitled to $15 per mensem. 

The Latin school (Latinuskoli i Eeykjaviki) publishes yearly 
transactions, in a short yellow pamphlet, Icelandic and Danish 
(Skyrsla um hinn LserSaskola Reykj. Einar ThorSarson). In 
that of 1871 we find the following names : 

The Rector is the only official who lives in the college, and 
he receives a salary of $1816 per annum. The actual tenant 
(1872) ^ is Hr Jens SigurSsson, brother to Jon, the O'Connell of 
Iceland, and he has made himself eminent by his historical 

The Yfirkennari, or head-master, lectures the fourth, or highest 
class, in Greek, Latin, and French, with a salary of $1192. The 
present occupant is Hr Jon Thorkelsson. 

Of the following professors (Skolakennari, Dan. Adjunct), three 
receive a total of $3756 per annum = $1192, including house- 
rent ; the theological lecturer (Prestaskolakennari, Dan. Docent) 
about the same sum ; while the two assistants receive something 
more than half ($612). Their names and duties are : 

1. Haldor Kr. FriSriksson, who lectures all the classes in Ice- 
landic, Danish, German, English, and geography. 

2. Gisli Magntisson, in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew ; the Hebrew, 
formerly so much affected, is now become almost obsolete ; there 
are only eighteen pupils at the priests' seminary, and a single 
Oriental student on the island. Rev. Thorwaldr Bjornsson, whom 
we shall presently meet. It is curious how those who hold to 
" the Bible and nothing but the Bible," neglect the Oriental 
text for translations, which are so far from being correct that the 
best often utterly pervert the meaning ; and, stranger still, that 
the vast stores of exegetical and hermeneutical learning should 

^ Olmusa or Almusa is the Greek 'EXeri/jjoa^pr), the German Almosen, and the 
English Alms (Cleasby). 
2 He died November 2, 1872. 


still lie locked up in the forbidden Talmud/ and in the pages 
of Jewish commentators. 

3. Jonas GuSmundsson, in Latin, Danish, and theology. 

4. Haldor GuSmundsson, in arithmetic, physics, mathematics, 
and botany. 

5. Hannes Arnason, in geology and minerology. 
The three extra professors are : 

1. Procurator P. MelsteS, in Danish history and geography; he 
is a Timakennari (Dan. Timeli^erer) paid by the hour, 40 skillings. 

2. Saungkennari (Dan. Musiklserer), the organist, P. GuSjons- 
son, who receives annually $250, without house-rent. 

3. Kennari i leikfimi (Dan. Gymnastiklserer), C. P. Stunberg, 
said to be a retired officer in the Danish Army ; his salary is the 
same as No. 3. 

And, finally, there is the inspector with a pay of $220 per 

The only unequivocal success of an Iceland education ap- 
pears to be the hand-writing ; it is caligraphic as in the Brazil 
and Paraguay ; probably for the same reason, namely, that time 
is not money. As will appear in the Journal, a smattering of 
modern languages has been allowed gradually to usurp the place 
of Latin, which few even of the priests now speak fluently — the 
traveller frequently regrets the change. The Kob Eoy canoeist 
finds the classical tongue a meagre vehicle for intercourse ; he 
would not do so if he knew the neo-Latin languages, and would 
give an hour per day for a few weeks to the colloquies of Erasmus, 
pronounced Italianistically, and to conversation with a foreign 
priest. Professor Blackie proposes Greek as the language of the 
future ; we shall next expect to see Sanskrit or Chinese ^ advo- 

^ The author is aware that a student who reads Greek and Latin, Italian, 
Spanish, Portugese, French, German, and English, will find almost all the Talmud, 
certainly all the valuable parts, in translation at the library of the British Museum. 
But, unhappily, British Museums do not exist everywhere. Till the constitu- 
tional days of Italy the five Jewish Synagogues at Rome were not allowed to own 
copies of this vast repertory of Hebrew lore. 

2 If English, as appears likely, is to become the cosmopolitan language of com- 
merce, it will have to borrow from Chinese as much monosyllable and as little 
inflection as possible. The Japanese have already commenced the systematic pro- 
cess of "pidgeoning," which for centuries has been used on the West African 
Coast, in Jamaica, and, in fact, throughout tropical England, Hindostan alone 


cated : the difficulties of the ancient dialect, with its duals and 
middles, are enormous, and no such thing as modern Greek 
yet exists.! 

The Icelandic pronunciation of the Latin vowels is Italian 
rather than French, e.g.,Dominum (like "room," not Dominom) and 
nd'Uytd, a sailor, not nota : /, after vernacular fashion, is equiva- 
lent to y (ejus = eyus) ; and g in gener, regio, and gymnast are 
hard (get, not George). The stranger must carefully conform to 
these peculiarities or he will not be understood. 

Icelanders have two grievances connected with the Latin 
school, one not unreasonable, the other urgent. They complain 
that youths learn bad habits at the capital, and parents prefer 
the days of the " schola Bessestadensis." Moreover, they de- 
clare that the suppression of the northern school has caused loss 
of time and money — families being obliged to send their children 
from the eastern quarter almost round the island via the north 
to Eeykjavlk. The Danish Government could hardly do better 
than to restore the northern centre of learning, and, perhaps, 
transferring the southern to Thingvellir would improve the 
present state of things. 

Art simply does not exist in Iceland, and, to judge from the 
little museum of Eeykjavik, it was always rude as that of Cen- 
tral Africa : the only attempt appears to be on the part of 
the goldsmith. There is a single painter at Eeykjavik, and 
his career has been cramped by inability to study in lands 
where the sun shines. The sculptor and the architect have no 
business here. Even music and dancing, especially the latter, 
which reminds us of that " accursed thing," the dancing-master 
lately denounced in Argyleshire, have hardly passed, except at 
Eeykjavik, from the savage to the barbarous stage. We read of 
the Fidla or violin, and of a Lang Spil like that of the Scoto- 
Scandinavian islands, an oblong box about two feet three inches 
wide, and ending in a " fiddle-head ; " the three steel wires were 

^ The dialects vary so much that we can hardly speak of modern Greek, The 
only approach to it is the bastard, half-classical jargon, almost confined to the 
professors and the Xoycdoraroi of the capital and chief towns. Worse still, all 
the Komaic grammars and dictionaries are devoted to teaching a tongue which 
no illiterate person speaks, ever spoke, or ever, it is to* be hoped, will speak. 
Except by actual travel it is hardly possible to learn the charmingly naive dialects 
of the peasantry. 



either scraped with a bow, or were scratched with the forefinger, 
the instrument being placed upon a table. But local colour has 
departed and we hear only that piano which civilised men just 
prefer to the guillotine, an occasional flute, and some form of 
" musical bellows," harmonium, or accordion. The traveller's 
ears are never regaled with the Norwegian Eanz des Vaches, 
nor the plaintive airs w^hich have struck earlier visitors. And 
the people appear to be deficient both in time and tune ; their 
lullabies are horrible ; " Hieland Laddie " is painfully distorted, 
and the snatches of song are in the true " rum-ti-tiddy " style, 
grateful, perhaps, to Dan Dinmont, but assuredly to none but he. 
A little volume of 180 pages published by the Icelandic 
Literary Society, at Copenhagen (Islenzk Salmasaungs og Messu- 
bok), and costing $1, suggested that there might be some rem- 
nants of music handed down from the past. But it proved to 
be merely a collection of old German hymns well-known through- 
out the Lutheran world ; and the only specimens worth repro- 
ducing were these. 

No. I. (8% in original). 
Tiinga min &c. (Sa krossfesti Kristur lifir). 









Sa kross-fest - i Krist-ur lif - ir, krist-inn eng-an skalthvi mann 
dautfans fall - a ott - i yf - ir, eng - in grof hann skelf-a kann ; 





theim, sem lix • iniitlireyr,upp-b6 - in thseg er sseng, aS hvil-ist hann. 

No. II. (in Book No. 83). 
Um dauSann gef thii, drottinn, mer. 


Um dau9-ann gef thti, drott-inn, mer dag - leg' aS hugs - a 
og aS mIn sef a end - a fer, eg vist thvlgleym-i 








upp-l^s mitt hjart - a, herr - a minn! aS liraeS-ast 

t7t\ — 1 ^i3 "sa 








kynn' eg dom - inn thinn, a efsta' er upp kveSst deg 


No. TIL (in Book No. 90). 
Ther tliakkir gjorum. 









Lj6slj6m-ar dag - ur, llfs kaet-ist hag - ur, sja, Ijossveit 

vek - ur, 


sol nott burt hrek 

ur. Enn fo3 - ur aid 

-e> — = 



\ -^ ^ l-* •- 





=1— F— F= 

ei - Iff - um gjald - a thokk skal thre - fald - a. 

§ 2. Peofessions. 

The army and navy being unknown to Iceland, the liberal 
professions are confined to three — Church, Law, and Physic. 

The Church is a favourite profession, and we shall soon see 
the reason why. " Magnam, quae in templa eorumque ministros 
ante viguerat," says Bishop Petursson, " munificentiam post Ee- 
formationem evanuisse et ex eo inde tempore conditionem sacer- 
dotum Islandicorum miserrimam fuise constat." The ecclesi- 
astical division was formerly into two bishoprics — Skalholt, 
estabhshed in a.d. 1057; and Holar, in a.d. 1107.^ The digni- 

^ The two cathedrals of Catholic days were burnt : their successors were 
humble buildings ; that of Skalholt was a wooden barn ; the building at Holar 
was, like the ViSey church, of stone, a rare thing outside Reykjavik. 


taries were originally under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop 
of Bremen-cum-Hamburg. In A.D. 1103-4 they became subject 
to Azerus (Aussur or Ossur), first Archbishop of Lund; and, 
lastly, in A.D. 1152, they were made suffragans of the Bishop of 
Throndhjem. In A.D. 1797 the sees were united ; a single bishop 
appointed by the Crown was stationed, as now, at Eeykjavik ; 
and the cathedral lacked, as it still lacks, a chapter. Since Nor- 
way was divided from Denmark, the chief dignitary was placed 
under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Seeland Bishopric, but 
this authority is sometimes questioned. It was proposed by a 
pragmatical innovator of late years that the present bishop should 
be consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the attempt 
failed before the indignation of the clergy and laity ; it aimed, 
in fact, at yielding the question of apostolic succession. The 
machinator took refuge in England. 

The clergy are also appointed by the bishop, subject to the 
confirmation of the Crown. They were divided into HeraSs- 
profastr (Dan. Stiftprovest), or archdeacons (now obsolete) ; Pro- 
fastur (prsepositus), provosts or deacons, ranking between rector 
and bishop ; Prestar, rectors or cur^s ; and ASsto5arprestur, alias 
Kapellan, corresponding with our curates. There is no expres- 
sion equivalent to " vicar," and it must be coined foT purposes of 
translating him of Wakefield. 

In 1772 the island had 189 parishes (Presta-koll), namely, 127 
under the see of Skalholt, and 62 under Holar; in 1834 there 
were 194 livings or parochial churches; and in 1872 the number 
had fallen to 171. A yearly report, published at Copenhagen 
(Anglysing um EndurskoSaS brauSamat a Islandi), gives a suf- 
ficiency of details. According to the last issue (1872), the island 
contained 171 ecclesiastics, or 1 : 456, a strong contrast with 
the 7000 priests at Eome ; there were 301 churches and chapels 
(Annexja = Annexe) to 305 in 1818 ; consequently 130 were 
not filled, and service was confined to about once in three weeks.^ 
The revenues, however, are appropriated to the incumbents of 
other livings. 

^ Bishop Petursson (299-305) supplies a " Specification" of all the priesthoods 
and their revenues in the island. 



There are twenty Profastdsemid (deaconries), viz. 




5. Rangarvalla, includ- 
ing the Vestman- 


Grullbringu ^ and Kjo- 

Borgarfjar^ar, includ 
ing Reykholt, 

10. Sneefells, 

numbering 9 


Carry forward, 86 

Brought forward, 86 
Dala, numbering 5 

BarSastrandar, ,, 8 

Vesturisafjar?Jar ,, 6 

Nor?5urisafjarSar, ,, 7 

15. Stranda, ,, 4 

Hunavatns, ,, 13 

SkagafjartJar, ,, 13 

Eyjafjar?Jar, ,, 13 

SuSurthingeyjar, in- 
cluding Myvatn's 


20. NorSurthingeyjar, 


Total, 171 

The smallest living is that of Sandfell i Oraefum = $111-89; 
the highest that of Hof i VopnafirSi = $1545-33 : in Dillon's 
day, " BreiSab61sta5r " was the most lucrative benefice. The 
bishop's salary is now $3416 ; and the rector of Eeykjavik draws 
$1524-77. Seven livings pass $1000 per annum; three, $900 ; 
six, $800 ; six, $700 ; eleven, $600 ; twenty-four, $500 ; twenty- 
seven, $400 ; thirty-three, $300 (below which sum pay is con- 
sidered poor) ; thirty-nine, $200 ; and twelve, $100. Mr Vice- 
Consul Crowe (Eeport, 1865-66) makes the priest's honorarium 
average about 300 rixdollars annually, or £34. When Hender- 
son travelled (1818), the richest living, if he be correct, which is 
open to doubt, was of $200 ; many were of $36, and some of $5 
per annum. Other old travellers speak of $33, and even $30. 
They justly term these incomes " miserably limited," but they 
neglect to add rent-free manse and glebe-land, often some of the 
best in the county, besides various minor sources of gain. It 
became the fashion to pity the Icelandic clergy, who were com- 
pelled to be farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen after the fashion 
of St Dunstan. The latter in 1834 are represented to have been 
especially numerous ; but as every man in Iceland is more or 
less a blacksmith and a carpenter, we may again suspect invol- 

^ Gullbringu is the S^sla which contains Reykjavik j but the cathedral town is, 
of course, under a separate jurisdiction. 


untary misrepresentation. This life of labour is still the case 
with the Maronites, whose Church is far from being a refugiitm 
peccatorum. The " Prestr," who had an industrious wife, and 
no taste for fine wines and tobacco, was better placed than his 
kinsman the Bondi,^ who had to pay, instead of receiving, tithes. 
And considering the relative value of money, we may doubt if 
he was ever so severely pressed by the w^olf Poverty as many an 
English ecclesiastic, a scandal which is only now being removed.^ 
In 1810 the bishop received, with the contributions of the school- 
fund, $1800 per annum; this £200 was fully equal in those 
days to £2000 in modern England. The author, when in Ice- 
land, never saw a parson shoe a horse or take money for his hos- 

The bishoprics of Skalholt and Holar at first followed the 
ecclesiastical regulations drawn up by St Olafr of Norway. 
In A.D. 1097 they adopted the tithe laws, which Ssemund the 
Wise had compiled, which were sanctioned by Bishop Gizur 
Isleifsson, and which were proclaimed by the President of the 
Icelandic Eepublic (LogsogumaSur), Markus Skeggjason. An 
order of the Althing (a.d. 1100-1275) divided this Tiund into 
four quarters, paid respectively to the bishop (Biskups-tiund), 
the priest (Prests-tiund), the church (repairs, etc., Kirkju-tiund), 
and the poor (Fatsekra-tiund) ; and this division still obtains 
in the case of tithes from properties exceeding a certain value. 
After April 16, 1556, the bishop's portion was appropriated by 
the sovereign under the name of " Crown tithes." This form of 
tax is obsolete in Europe, but it can hardly be altered for the 
better in a sparsely populated country like Iceland, attached to 

1 Bondi (of old, Bfiandi and Boandi), plur. Buendr or Boendr (Germ. Bauer, 
Eng. Hus-band) included all the owners of landed property and householders 
(Bu), from the petty freeholder to the franklin, especially the class represented by 
our yeomen and the "statesmen" of Cumberland and Westmoreland, It is still 
opposed in Iceland to the "klerkar" (clergy), to the knights, to the barons (Hersir- 
or Lendir-menn), and to the royal officers (hirS). In more despotic Norway and 
Denmark, "bondi" became a word of contempt for the lower classes; and in 
modern Danish, Bonder means plebs, a boor, B6, from aS b(ia, to build, to in- 
habit, is the household and stores, opposed to Bser, the house (Cleasby). 

2 In 1873, no less than 4385 "livings" in the Church of England were under 
£200 per annum : of these, 1211 were under £100 ; 1596 ranged between £100 and 
£150 ; and 1578 from £150 to £200. Measures have lately been taken to abate 
this scandal, which pays less for the " cure of souls" than for the care of stables. 


the mos majorum, where the state of society differs little from 
that which originated the impost.^ 

In 1810, the Tiund of twelve head of fish, or an equivalent of 
27 skillings, then = 1 shilling, was required from every person 
possessing more than five hundreds,^ and it increased in uni- 
form ratio with property. The subject of tithes has become a 
mass of intricacies, and only the outlines of the system can find 
room. The Tiund (Teind of the Shetlands) is now an impost of 
one per cent, on the value of all assessable property, viz., on 
land, boats, horses, cows, and sheep. The tithes of properties not 
exceeding five "hundreds/' or about $150, are applied undivided 
to supporting paupers ; above that sum, they are quartered, as 
before mentioned. 

Tithes may also be divided into two classes — the first, taken 
upon all the hundreds of immovable property, land, and houses ; 
the second, levied after the fifth hundred, upon movable goods, 
money, horses, cattle, and fishing boats with their gear. For- 
merly every fisherman contributed one share of one day's fishing 
to the hospitals ; now he pays J ell, or 12 skillings, of every 120 
heads of fish, and 1 ell, or 24 skillings, for every barrel of shark 
liver oil (Law 12, Feb. 1872). Church and Crown estates are 
exempt. Hospital lands, like the property of the governor, the 
bishop, the amtmenn, and the priests, pay only the " few-taking," 
quarter-tithe or poor-tax. 

The clergyman also adds to his temporalities by fees for bap- 
tisms, marriages, and burials. Each farmer is bound to feed an 
ecclesiastical mutton from mid-October to mid-May. This is a 
relic of Catholicism, when the " lamb of SS. Mary and Joseph " 
was intended as a feast, given by the priest to his parishioners 

1 The traveller cannot but think that our scientific political economists are 
apt, in outlying countries, to neglect the first rule of taxation, namely, to avoid 
imposing novelties, and to levy imposts with which the people are accustomed. 
Thus India willingly contributes salt and capitation taxes, and especially Naza- 
ranah., or legacy duties, whilst she hates the name of income-tax. No one will 
deny that the two former are objectionable for a host of reasons, but the question 
is, whether they are less injurious than those which lead to the many evils en- 
gendered by chronic discontent. 

2 The system of hundreds will be discussed when treating of taxation. Suffice 
it here to say that in modern Iceland, as in England of former times, the value of 
land tenure was estimated not by extent, but by produce. Indeed, superficial 
land-measures, sucb as the " mark " of the Fseroes ( = 32,500 square English feet), 
are unknown to the island. 



after they had communicated. Now the latter graze the mutton, 
but do not eat it. The Prestr can also command a corvee of the 
poorer peasantry for at least one day to get in his hay-crop. 
And what distinguish his position in Iceland are the high pro- 
portion and the comparative value of Church property. 

In 1695 the distribution of the 4059 farms upon the island 
was as follows : 

Crown lands, 
Church lands. 
Freehold lands. 



Uno Von Troil (1772), quoting the Liber Villarium, or Land- 
book of 1695, thus distributes the Church property: 

Bishopric of Skalholt, . 

304 farms. 

,, Holar, 

345 „ 

Churcli glebes, . 

640 „ 

Clergy glebes, 

140 ,, 

Glebes of superannuated clergymen, 

45 „ 

For the poor. 

16 ,, 

For hospitals, . . . . 

4 ,, 


. 1494 ,, 

Here, out of a total of 4059, the sovereign, the clergy, and the 
poor whom they represented, monopolised a total of 2212. And 
in the present day the whole number of farms being 4357/ the 
clergy still hold the best properties. The total of 87,860 
hundreds may now be divided as follows : 

Crown hundreds. 

Priest hundreds. 

Hospitals and poor hundreds, . 

Farmers' hundreds, 

The proportion has declined from half to little more than a third, 
but it is still abnormal. 

The power of landed property, combined with superior educa- 
tion and the facility of evicting tenantry, makes the Iceland 
parson a " squarson " of purest type, as the witty compounder of 



1 It should be remembered that "Heimili" (households, families) are quite 
different from "JartJir" (farms); and the two must not be confounded. The 
number of the former is 9306, of the latter 4357. 


the word understood it. He inherits, moreover, not only the 
respect, but even the political power of the old pagan Go5i. He 
commands elections as a rule,^ and can return himself, as well as 
his friends, to the Althing. Indeed, nothing in Iceland struck 
the author more than the despotism of the Lutheran Church. 
It is like the state of Bavaria, where the priests manage the 
polling by threatening the well-known " Fire of Heaven." 

Nothing need be said of legal studies in Iceland, as the course 
is relegated to Copenhagen. 

The island being divided into medical districts, gives a certain 
impulse to aspirants. The head physician, or surgeon-general 
(Land-physicus) of Iceland, who, after being passed by the Faculty 
of Copenhagen, lectures at Eeykjavik, is Dr Jon Jonsson Hjaltalin: 
his publications are well known throughout Europe, and he will 
often be mentioned in the following pages. His salary is $1766 
a year, and he supervises the eight, formerly seven, district 
Doctores Medicinae. These at present are : 

1. Dr Thorgrimr Assmundsson Johnsen, stationed in the 

eastern part of the Southern Quarter. 

2. Dr Thorsteinn J6nsson, in the Vestmannaeyjar, where his 

treatment has been most successful. 

3. Dr Hjortur Jonsson, in the southern part of the Western 


4. Dr Thorvaldur Jonsson, in the northern part of do. 

5. Dr Josep Skaptason, in the Htinavatn and SkagafjorS Syslas. 

6. Dr Thordur Tomasson, in the EyjafjorS and Thingey Syslas. 

7. Dr Fritz Zeuthen, in the eastern districts. 

8. The Candid. Medic. Olafr Stephansson Thorarensen, in the 

north-east, Hofi and EyjafjorS Syslas. 
These gentlemen must prescribe gratis, but they are allowed to 
sell drugs. Their salaries are about $900 per annum, and under 

^ In 1872 contested elections were almost unknown; at least only one was 
quoted, and the candidate had learned the practice in England. The position of 
Al-thlngis-ma?5r was also an object of scanty ambition except to those who required 
the small salary, or who had a political theory to work out. The assertion in the 
text is denied by Icelanders ; but the author repeatedly heard it made by Danes 
and other foreigners settled in the island — at any rate, we may expect to see it 
realised by the new constitution. Knowledge is power in Iceland as elsewhere, 
and the numbers of the priesthood secure their influence, whilst the physicians 
and lawyers are too few to be of much account. 


the most favourable circumstances their incomes do not exceed 
$1000 to $1200. The only apothecary on the island is M. 
Kandrup, a Dane, who is also Consul de France. He distributes 
medicines without taking fees, and draws an annual salary of 

The number of midwives^ (Icel. Yfirsetu-konur, oversitting 
wives) is about a score. That devotion to homoeopathy recorded 
by travellers in the early nineteenth century, appears to be going 
the way of all systems, after a short but not a wholly useless 



§ 1. Zoological Notes and Sport. 

Iceland, which is an exaggeration of Scotland, whilst Green- 
land exaggerates Iceland, is supposed to number seven families 
and thirty-four species of mammals, but of these twenty-four are 
" water creatures." Two quadrupeds have been considered indi- 
genous, though evidently imported; the first is the mouse of 
many fables, the second is the fox. An old Iceland tradition 
asserts that Reynard was spitefully imported by a king of Nor- 
way, as magpies were sent to Ireland by the hated Saxon. 
Some are still floated over on the ice, but they seldom appear 
upon the east coast. A premium upon vulpecide dates from 
olden days, and increased demand for the robe has made the 
animals comparatively rare. Formerly they did immense damage 
amongst the newly-dropped lambs, and the farmers ignored the 
Scotch " dodge " of applying a streak of tar to the shoulder or 

^ The English Midwife means "with-wife," from the Icel. "Me9," the German 


to any part of the youngling. The people divide foxes into 
tame and wild : the latter grapple the sheep by their wool and 
never loose them, till they fall exhausted. 

Horrebow the Dane (Nat. Hist, of Ice.) mentions dark -red 
foxes, but Hooker neither saw nor heard of them. Kerguelen 
refers to red as well as to black,^ blue, and white foxes. Uno 
Von Troil declares that some of the animals are called " Gras 
tour " (or grass-eating tod) ; ^ usually two varieties are recog- 
nised, C. lagopus (Mel-rakki) and C. fuliginosus ; but the Isatis 
or white Arctic and the sooty-brown are probably the same ani- 
mal at several seasons. Some assert the former to be white all 
the year round, but no hunter ever pretends to have found 
a white cub. The blue fox, which haunts certain places, very 
seldom comes to market, because the chief chasseur is dead. 
The white coat is cheap, the fine brown is rare and dear. Ice- 
land, of course, abounds in folk-lore and ^sopian tales of SkoUi 
(the skulker), as well as of mice, gulls, and ravens ; the string of 
foxes hanging over the cliffs, and the contrivance of the vixen to 
escape from the hounds, show ingenuity in the inventor.^ 

The history of the imported reindeer (C. tarandus) is well 
known. In 1770 Hr Sorensen, a merchant, embarked thirteen 
head from Norway ; of these ten died on the passage, and three 
fawned before 1772. They were never used for sledges : as the 
mule is the familiar of the Latin family, and the camel of the 
nearer East, so the reindeer can be developed only by the Lapps, 
Finns, and Tungusians. Moreover, the reindeer is fitted only for a 
snowy country ; the skin and hair do not readily throw off water, 
and the animals suffer severely from wet — hence Iceland proved 
anything but the expected paradise. The average life of the 
Havier (stag) is said to be sixteen years. The young horns were 
eaten by the old IN^orwegians, and, when hard, they were cut into 
cramp -ring like those of the elk {Alee eqicicervus) — a curatio 

^ So Styria and Istria boast of a *' Kohl-fuchs, " so termed from his coal-black 

'^ May not the idea have arisen from a confusion of * * To, " a grass-tuft, with 
*• T6a," or " Tofa," a tod ? The older name, Mel-rakki, is derived from burrow- 
ing in the sand. 

^ Uno Von Troil (p. 140) also mentions wild cats (UrSar-kettir, cats-o'-stone- 
heap) and rats. 


per contrarium. Some of these attires are grand as those of the 
Canadian Wapiti. There are now only two known herds upon 
the island, and details concerning them will be given in the 

The Fjarhundr or shepherd-dog {C. Islandicus), according to 
Mackenzie, is of the Greenland breed ; the " prick-eared cur " 
certainly resembles the Eskimo, sometimes with a dash of our 
collie. Formerly they were far more numerous than men ; and 
old authors mention several breeds — " lubbar" or shag-dogs ; dyr- 
liundar, deer or fox hounds, and dverg-hundar, dwarf hounds or 
lapdogs. Foreign animals are now rare; the common sort is 
a little "pariah," not unlike the Pomeranian; stunted, short- 
backed, and sharp-snouted, with ruffed neck and bushy tail, or 
rather brush, curling and recurling. The colour is mostly brown- 
black, some are light -brown, deep -black, white, and piebald. 
Those brought to Eeykjavik appear shy, savage, and snappish as 
foxes. Formerly they were trained to keep caravan-ponies on 
the path ; now they guard the flocks, loiter about the farms, and 
keep cattle off the "ttin."^ Good specimens easily fetch $6; 
a horse may be exchanged for the most valuable, those which, 
they say, can search a sheep under nine ells of snow. They are 
accused of propagating amongst their masters, hydatic disease 
and intestinal worms {Tcenia echinococcus) ; and this considera- 
tion induced the Althing, in 1871, magno cum risu of the public, 
who asked why the cats were not assessed, to impose an annual 
dog-tax of $2 per head upon all exceeding a certain number on 
each farm — it will cause the premature death of many a promis- 
ing pup. Half of the amount is the perquisite of the Hreppstjorar, 
the other moiety goes to the Treasury. The danger would be 
less if the dogs were not so often allowed to lick the platters 
clean, and to perform other and similar domestic duties. 

Cats are common, especially in the capital, showing that de- 
fence is necessary against rats and mice. Herds of swine are 
alluded to in the island Sagas ; and Iceland, like the Faeroes, is 
full of such names as Svina-fell, Svina-dalr, and Svina-vatn. Not 
a single head is now seen except at Eeykjavik, where a few 

1 The Irish " town -land," ie., yard and meadow; Scotch "toun;" Cornish 
*' town ; " Dutch ** tuyn," a garden ; and Germ. '* tzaun." 


are annually imported for immediate slaughtering. The peasants 
cannot afford to rear such expensive animals, which, moreover, 
damage the " ttin." A fevv^ goats are said to linger about the 
northern parts of the island ; formerly they were common, but 
about 1770 they began to be proscribed for injuring the turf-roofs 
— where they can find no vines. 

There are six families and some ninety species of birds, fifty- 
four of the latter being water-fowl. A valuable list of the air- 
fauna may be found in Appendix A. to Baring-Gould's volume, 
" N"otes on the Ornithology of Iceland," by Alfred N"ewton, M.A. 
Almost every traveller has dipped into the subject, but Mr 
Newton has twice visited the island to study his specialty. His 
conclusion is thus stated : " The character of the avi-fauna of 
this country, as might have been expected from its geographical 
position, is essentially European, just as that of Greenland has 
American tendencies." Of course many are emigrants from the 
south, and, treating of this subject, we should not forget the 
poetical, and apparently practical, theory of Euneberg the Skald 
of modern Sweden. He makes the object light, not merely 
warmth : " The bird of passage is of noble birth ; he bears a 
motto, and his motto is 'Lux Mea Dux' " 

The most interesting of the game denizens is the ptarmigan 
{Tetrao lagopus). The people recognise only one species, but in 
these matters they are of no authority, and foreigners suspect the 
existence of two as in Norway. The small mountain-ptarmigan 
{Lagopus vulgaris) of the Continent is white in winter and grey 
speckled black at other times ; its note is compared with the frog's 
croak, the sheep's cough, or the harsh cry of the missel-thrush. 
The Danish Skov or Dal-rype (wood or dale ptarmigan) is some 
seventeen inches long, white-plumed in winter, and during the 
rest of the year clad in warm yellow-brown, like the red grouse ; 
the " cluck " can be heard a mile off. Metcalfe recognised in 
Iceland a modified cluck, while Faber and Yarrell believe the 
islander to be a new species. The cock is locally called Rj6p- 
karri, and the hen Ejiipa (Reb-huhn), evidently from the cry. 
It carries the young on the back, and is said to be stupid as the 
Touraco; this was not the author's experience. Mackenzie 
appears to be in error when he makes the Scotch ptarmigan 


haunt the hills, and the Icelander prefer the lowlands. The 
bird enters largely into folk-lore : the fox of fable blinds it by 
throwing the snow in its eyes ; and when the ger-falcon pierces 
its heart, he screams for sorrow to find that he has slain a sister. 

Flocks of geese, also mentioned by the Sagas, are now found, 
like swans, only in the wild state ; yet there is little apparent 
reason for the change. The raven will be treated of in another 
place ; there are no crows except stragglers blown to sea by the 
southern gales. Poultry is still bred in small numbers about 
the farms, and, if the proportions were greater, they would be 
useful in clearing the ground of the injurious lumbrici. But the 
traveller observes that gallinaceous birds, originally natives of 
the tropics and of the lower temperates, though easily acclimated 
to the higher latitudes, will not thrive beyond the habitat of the 
civilised cereals. At any rate in Iceland their productiveness 
is limited. 

It is generally known that there are no snakes in Iceland as 
in Ireland. Islands disconnected from continents by broad 
tracts of sea like Annobom and St Helena, notably lack 
venomous reptiles; the latter, however, have passed over the 
nineteen miles between Fernando Po and the Camarones main- 
land. Papilios and sphinxes, newts and lizards, frogs and toads, 
also shun the cold damp air. Mackenzie found a coccinella near 
the Geysir; and Madame Ida Pfeiffer secured two wild bees 
which she carried off in spirits of wine. The pests are gnats, 
midges, and fleas ; the pediculus is well known, but the cimex, 
as in older England, has not yet become naturalised. 

Mr J. Gwyn Jeffreys kindly obliged the author with the fol- 
lowing note concerning a small collection forwarded to him. 

" "Ware Priory, Herts, 
5th October 1872. 

" My Dear Sir, — .... The Iceland shells are as follows : 

Marine — 

1. Littorina obtusata, Linne ; var. =; L. palliata, Say. = L. limata, 


Zand — 

2. Helix arbustorum, L. 

3. Succinea putris, L. ; var. Groenlandica, Beck. 


Fresh-water — 

4. Pisidium nitidum, Jenyns ; var. Steenbuchii, Miiller. 

5. Limnsea peregra, Miiller ; var. Vahlii, Beck. 

** Most of the land shells of Iceland are usually thin, from a deficiency of lime 
or calcareous material. This is not the case with the succinea, or with the fresh- 
water shells, and much less with the marine. 

" Nearly all your shells were broken. — Yours truly, 

(Signed) *' J. GWYN JEFFREYS." 

Baring-Gould (p. 114) found " fossil fresh-water shells on the 
sand formations between the trap-beds." 

The sportsman must not expect to see in Iceland that " abund- 
ance of game," promised by old and even by writers of the last 
decade ; he may content himself with No. 5 shot — No. 1, or 
swan shot, being now useless. Fur is hardly to be had ; no 
foreigner has yet brought down a reindeer ; and the seals belong 
to the owner of the shore. The people kill Eeynard with " fox- 
shot " — but vulpecide will scarcely commend itself to the Eng- 
lishman. Feather is nearly as rare. Eider ducks are defended 
by law, and the author, after visiting the most likely places, can 
count the ptarmigan flushed ; they are generally " potted " sit- 
ting in the snow when they approach the farms. Only four 
whoopers showed themselves dulcihus in stagnis ; these singing 
swans, whose music is mentioned by every winter-traveller, are 
becoming strangers as in the Orkneys and Shetlands. The 
great auk is gone — for ever gone ; all his haunts have lately 
been ransacked in vain. Eight or nine years ago the lakes and 
ponds swarmed with duck; now their places know them no 
more. Sandpipers, common and purple ; malingering golden 
plover,^ oyster-catchers, curlew, and whimbrel, and the character- 
istic whimbrel (Numenius 'phmoipiis, Icel. Spoi), all of them de- 
testable eating, with an occasional snippet or snipe, especially the 
Hrossa-gaukr 2 ("horse-snipe," Gallinago media), so called from 

^ This bird {Charadrius pluvialis, Icel. Hey -16 and Hey-loa, the fern. Hey-laa 
commonly used, the hay-sandpiper), "quite the commonest in Iceland" (Baring- 
Gould, p. 411) — the snow-bunting being perhaps the commonest of the small 
birds — is black breasted in the breeding season, and afterwards becomes "golden." 

^ Gaukr (mod. gickr) is a congener of the A. Sax. Gaec ; the Irish Cuach 
(hence Mo-chuachin, "my little cuckoo!"); the Scotch Gowk; the German 
Gauch ; the Danish Gick, and the Slav. Keuk or Kukavitsa : the Serbian legend 
makes it a sister calling upon a lost brother. The Index Vocum, etc. (Land- 
namabok, p. 486), explains it Cuculus. 


its neighing cry, and, perhaps, from the popular idea of its 
throwing somersaults in the air, can hardly be called induce- 
ments — except to a Cockney gun. The one sufficient reason for 
this disappearance of birds is the systematic robbery of their 
nests; an ever - increasing population with decreasing means 
must eat up everything eatable. 

§ 2. Notes on the Flora. 

The vegetation of Iceland, like Greenland, is that of Scandi- 
navia, which Dr Hooker has shown to be one of the oldest on 
the globe. The popularly adopted computation gives 407 species 
of Phanerogams, of which one-eighth are grain-bearing; one- 
eighth leguminous ; one-ninth cyperacese ; one-seventeenth com- 
posite, and about one-eighteenth crucifers. 

That the present poverty of bread-stuffs is comparatively 
modern, may be proved by such names as Akrey, Akureyri, 
Akranes, Akra-hverar, and a host of others, all derived from Akr, 
a corn-field; the Aker of Lappland (aypo?, ager, acker, acre). 
We have also the distinct testimony of ancient literature. The 
Landnamabok (p. 15) mentions the ArSr^ (aratrum) and plough- 
ing with cattle. The Njala says, " Bleikir akrar en slegin tun " 
— the corn-fields are bleached (to harvest) and the tiin is mown. 
Though the island is now placed north of the barley-limit, crops 
of barley and rye have apparently been grown. 

Forbes and other writers attempt to explain away the signifi- 
cance of " akr," by suggesting that the { indigenous wild oat 
might have been cultivated in former days, and hence the traces 
of tilled and furrowed fields which have been allowed to relapse 
into the savage state. This grain of many names (Avena aren- 
aria, Elymus arenarius, Granum spicatum, secalinum maritimum 
spied longiooe, and arundo foliorum laterihus convohUis acumine 

1 This is a lineal descendant from the ancient and venerable root which named 
the Aryan race, "Apioi, i.e., ploughers not pastors, and which produced Ar-atron, 
Ar-atrum ; Bohemian, Or-adlo ; Lithuanian, Ar-klas ; Cornisli, Ar-adar, and 
Welsh, Ar-ad, and which survives in our word to " ear." The Ar?Jr of the Sagas 
was probably heavier and bulkier than the Plogr, a late word of foreign stamp, 
which "our American cousins " will degrade to "plow." 


pungente) is popularly called Melr ; ^ and old authors divide the 
"sea-lyme grass" of Iceland into two species — (1.) Avena arenaria, 
and (2.) Avena foliorum laterihus convolutis. The opinion is un- 
tenable for two reasons. Firstly, the cereal is a local growth, 
flourishing chiefly in the Skaptarfells Sysla and in the M3h:dals 
and SkeiSarar Sandur ; it exists in the north-east of the island ; 
but it does not yield food. Secondly, transplantation has often 
been tried during the last few years, for instance, to the Borgar- 
fjorS, and other highly favourable spots, with one effect — like Kan- 
garoo grass in Australia, the grain refused to ripen. Finally, we 
may observe, Olafsson and Pallsson on their journey through 
Iceland, nearly a century ago, mention wheat growing in the 
southern districts. 

The cause of the change, sometimes attributed to oscillations 
of temperature, is simply disforesting, which has promoted the 
gTowth of bog and heath now covering half the island, which 
allows storm- winds to sweep unopposed over the surface, and 
which, since the Saga times, has necessarily rendered the cold 
less endurable to cereals. A number of local names, beginning 
with Eeynir, the sorb apple (Sorhus edidis)^ proves that groves 
of the wild fruit-tree, whose pomaceous berries, rich in malic 
acid, were munched by the outlaw, once flourished where there 
is now not a trace of them. The Landnamabok (chap, i., p. 7) 
expressly declares that Iceland was wooded from the sea to the 
mountains, or inner plateau (var tha skogT milom f jails ogfjoru); 
and tells us how, as in Madeira Island, the woods were de- 
stroyed by fire. Vain attempts have been made to remedy an 
evil which is now all but irreparable; without nurseries and 
walls, the young plants are always wind- wrung. As in the 
Orkneys and Shetlands, the only trees now growing wild are 
rowans; birches {Betula alba, nana, and fruticosa), and ground- 

1 This word, Melr {plur. Melar), iwild oats or bent, also Mel-gras (whence 
Mel-rakki, the fox), must be distinguished from what the Dictionary, erroneously 
I think, makes its secondary sense, a sand-hill, dune, dene or link, overgrown 
with such grass, and a sandbank generally, even when bare. The question is, 
was the oat called from its sand-bed or vice versd ? For a description of this 
feature, see Chapter IX. 

Etymologically, Reynir is applied to a cousin, the rowan tree, or mountain 
ash {Pyrus aucuparia), especially sacred to Thor. Hence the Vikings were 
called ash-men, because they sat under the sacred ash, which defended them 
from the evil eye. 


juniper {J. communis, Icel. Einir) ; the dwarf red, grey, and green- 
grey willows (Salix Lapponum, etc., Icel. Gra-ViSir), of which 
sixteen species have been collected, hardly ever exceed the size 
of sage, w^hich, indeed, the Selja {S. caprea) greatly resembles. 
The twiggy birch-thickets seldom surpass six feet in height, the 
northern part of Iceland being the extreme limit of the growth ; 
and a tree whose topmost leaves rise fifteen feet excites general 
admiration. The verdant patches labelled Skogr (forest), and 
scattered in the map, especially about the Lagarfljot, the Thjorsa, 
and the Hvita, denote this scrub. Yet the bogs supply tree 
stumps a foot and more in diameter. 

The wild flora of Iceland is small and delicate, with bright 
bloom, the heaths being especially admired ; and the traveller is 
at first surprised to find no difference in the vegetation of the 
uplands and the lowlands. 

Baring-Gould (Appendix C.) gives of Dicotyledons, Eanuncu- 
laceae (14 species), Papaveracese (2), Cruciferse (22), Yiolacese 
(4), Drosereae (2), Polygalacese (1), Caryophyllacese (25), Linaceae 
(1), Hypericacese (1), Geraniaceae (3), Leguminosae (8), Eosaceae 
(20),^ Pomeae (2), Onagraceae (9), Haloragaceae (2), Portulacaceae 
(1), Crassulaceae (17), Saxifragaceae (19), Umbelliferae (7), Arali- 
aceae (1), Cornaceae (1), Eubiaceae (10), Valerianaceae (1), Dipsa- 
caceae (2), Compositae (26), Campanulaceae (2), Yacciniaceae (4), 
Ericaceae (7), Pyrolaceae (3), Gentianaceae (15), Polemoniaceae (1), 
Boraginaccoe (6), Scrophulariaceae (18), Labiatae (8), Lentibularia- 
ceae (2), Primulaceae (3), Plumbaginiae (2), Plantaginaceae (6), 
Chenopodiaceae (3), Sceleranthaceae (1), Polygonaceae (13), Em- 
petraceae (1), Callithrichaceae (2), Ceratophyllaceae (1), Urticeae 
(2), Betulaceae (3), Salicaceae (17), and Coniferae, only one J. 

The Monocotyledons are Orchidaceae (13), Trilliaceae (1), Lili- 
aceae (1), Melanthaceae (3), Juncaceae (11), Juncaginaceae (2), 
Typhaceae (1), ISTaidaceae (7), Cyperaceae (47), and Gramineae (50). 
The Acotyledons are Polypodiaceae (13), Ophioglossaceae (2), 
Lycopodiaceae (8), and Equisetaceae (6). 

^ Hooker (ii. 325) found a true rose, the Rosa Mhernica, growing in the Selja- 
land, but only there. Thus it is not wholly wanting, as in the southern hemi- 

VOL. I. M 


The traveller refers for details to his own pages, to Hooker's 
Journal (1813), to Zoega's "Flora Islandica," to Preyer and 
Zirkel's " Eeise nach Island," to Dr W. L. Lindsay's " Flora of 
Iceland" (Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, July 1861), 
and to Dr Hjaltalin's " GrasafrseSi " (Handbook of Icelandic 
Botany, 8vo, 1830). 

Building-wood is wholly imported. Fuel, here used only for 
the kitchen, is supplied by the Argul of the Tartar, '' chips " {fimo 
hubulo pro lignis utuntur) ; by peat, which varies in depth from 
two to tw^enty-seven yards ; and by driftwood, which adds con- 
siderable value to the shores receiving it. There are two chief 
deposits, the northern supplied by Septentrional Europe, and the 
western by the ISTew World; the latter has of late years so 
much diminished that the islanders expect soon to see it cease. 

Concerning the origin of that miocene growth, Surtar-brand,^ 
or Iceland lignite, there are two conflicting opinions. Older 
writers believe it to be a local production, a growth like that which 
created the coal of the carboniferous period. The more modern 
support the theory that it is accumulated driftwood, semi-fossil- 
ised like Zanzibar copal, by heat and pressure. The question 
is still open to new light ; but as fossil leaves of plants were 
brought from Disco by Sir Edward Belcher's Expedition ; as we 
have convincing proofs that those latitudes were once inhabited 
by forests presenting fifty to sixty species of arborescent trees, 
elm, oak, pine, maple, and plane; and, what is more remarkable, 
by apparently evergreen trees and quasi-tropical flora, showing 
that these regions must have had perennial light ; we must 
incline to the old opinion. Early in this century, the Danish 
Government promised rewards to "persons who shall find out 

^ Further notices will occur in the Journal (Chap. V.) about this Surtar-hrand 
(not "Surtur-brand"). Etymologically, it is from Surtr (a congener of "swarthy") 
"the Black, " a fire-giant, who, coming from the south, will destroy the Odin-world, 
and Brandr, a firebrand. After the change of faith, this northern Ahriman^ or 
Set (Typhon) was ready to hand, and at once became the Semitico-Scandinavian 
"Devil." Upon the same principle, the latter is known in Scotland as " Auld 
Sootie," since the classical gamins gave horns and tail to Pluto, and the face of the 
great god Pan was blackened by the monks. The Surtshellir tunnel in western 
Iceland, famed for the atrocious " Cave-men " (outlaws), is also derived from the 
Surtr of Scandinavian mythology. The author did not visit it, but the descrip- 
tions and illustrations suggested the Umm Niran in the lava formations of the 
Safa, near Damascus, noticed in "Unexplored Syria." 


easier methods of breaking and using Surtar-brand from the 
rocks " (Hooker), but we do not hear that any one has deserved 
such generosity. 

The greatest deposits of Swart-brand are on the north-western 
Fjords, where it has been mined to a small extent, and whence 
specimens have been sent to England. It is mostly found bedded 
in layers three or four inches thick, alternating with trap. The 
surface is usually black and shiny, flaking, and otherwise behav- 
ing like lignite ; burning with a weak flame and a sour smell like 
wet wood. The smiths formerly preferred it to sea-coal, " be- 
cause it did not waste the iron;" when powdered, it preserved 
clothes from the moth, and, being an antiseptic, it was used 
internally against colics. The author was shown a specimen of 
true pitch-coal from the Hvita valley ; it is mentioned by Mac- 
kenzie (p. 368), who describes it as highly combustible, but not 
existing in large quantities. This source of wealth, as well as 
Iceland spar, Iceland moss, cryolite, and especially the sulphur 
fields, will be noticed in future pages ; further details about the 
interesting Surtar-brand will also be given in the Journal. 

§ 3. Agriculture. 

At present the grass lands are the wealth of the island, as 
they pasture the flocks and herds, which form the chief means 
of subsistence, and the most important articles of industry 
and commerce. The meadows are grassed over by nature, not 
ploughed nor harrowed, such implements being rarely used. 
'Not are they seeded, although Dillon (p. 125) speaks of the 
weedy grass crop being sotvn in May, growing about June in 
weedy pastures where, shortly before, no vegetation had been, 
and being fit for mowing in later August, when the snow is ofi* 
the hills,^ and when garden-stuff is ripe. The grass is soft and 
thick, much like our red-top, and about six inches high ; only 
in rare places the ponies wade up to their knees in through the 
rich meads. The hay is carefully " sheared," and is exceedingly 

^ In Switzerland, also, the minimum of snow coincides with the last of July 
and early August. 

180 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

sweet. White clover {Trifolium repenSj Icel. Smari) flourislies ; 
and on the streams it is found growing spontaneously with car- 
raway {Garum carui); the red species wants, they say, the fruc- 
tifying insect. 

Mackenzie, and other old travellers, assure us that the island 
requires nothing but active and intelligent men, able to combat 
the prejudices and to stimulate the exertions of the peasantry. 
The latter complain of the neglect of the Danish Government, 
and call upon Hercules, but will not help themselves. It is 
conceded that draining, ploughing, and manuring would improve 
the soil. But the question still remains. Is the short summer 
sufficient to ripen grain ? Late experiments with seed-corn have 
proved failures, one quarter of a barrel yielded only half a barrel ; 
this suggests that in the older day seed was imported. More- 
over, the taxes and the tenure of land mihtate against improve- 
ment ; whilst the excessive labour and expense required for the 
first steps, such as levelling the soil, place the preliminary opera- 
tions beyond the reach of most Bsendr. Governor Thodal (1772) 
sowed barley, which grew very briskly : a short time before it 
was to be reaped, a violent storm scattered the grains from the ears 
(U. V. Troil, p. 47). Governor Finsen tried oats in his compound, 
but they stubbornly refused to ripen. Many a summer will pass 
before an island poet will again sing the " Georgics of Iceland," 
and before the island can bear the motto, " Cruce et Aratro." 

At the close of the eighteenth century the Crown of Denmark 
established, in the northern district of the Hiinavatn, model 
farms, chiefly directed by foreigners. The grains experimented 
upon were mostly oats, barley, and rye, autumnal and vernal 
{Secale cereale, hybernum et cestivum). When protected by walls, 
the rye almost ripened, but the ears were seldom fecund. Still 
remain for trial various German ryes {Johanniskorn or Studenten- 
horn) ; spelt {Triticum spelt a) ; the buckwheat of Tartary (Poly- 
gonum Tataricum) ; the Triticum monococum, and sundry kinds 
of barley, the square autumnal (Hordeum vulgare hyhernum) ; 
the square vernal, so useful to middle Europe {H. v. cestivum) ; 
and, above all, the Lapland barley, which Linnaeus says may be 
planted at the end of May, and reaped on July 28. Abyssinia 
and the Western Hemisphere will supply the island with edible 


meadow-grasses and millet-grasses, Poas, and Festucse {Ovina 
and others)/ and especially with the Quinoa (Chenopodium 
qitinoa) of the Peruvian Andes, which ripens where no other 
corn grows. And let us hope that the indigenous cereals have 
not yet had a fair chance. 

In the last century Hr Haldorsen introduced the potato, which 
has now extended over the island. Dillon calls it a pigmy, and 
compares it with a tennis ball ; but it has improved since his 
day. Turnips would flourish, especially upon the warmer coasts, 
where the sub-soil is palagonitic sand, and where manure of sea- 
weed abounds. Eadishes, as now cultivated, are hard, coarse, and 
woody : spinach is a success, and much might be done to fatten 
the indigenous sorrel. The Stranda Sysla to the north-west has 
attempted with various fortunes, sundry kinds of caules; the 
broccoli, which grows quickly; the turnip-cabbage (Brassica 
oleracea gangloides), eaten in summer; the curled cole -wort 
{B. 0. sdbellica), kept for winter use; the red cabbage, strong 
to resist cold; the large growing white variety (B. o. capitata 
alba), and the cauliflower, which hardly exceeds the size of a 
man's fist — it is found, however, that the two latter refuse to 
seed. The other pottage-plants are lettuces, common in gardens ; 
beetroot, red and yellow ; carrots ; onions, garlic, and shalots 
(Al. asculonicum) ; chervil (Scandix cerefolium) ; black mustard, 
which, considering the climate, attains unusual dimensions ; 
water cress; radishes; horse radish {Baphanus niger); and parsley, 
the latter taking six to seven weeks before it rises above ground. 
In 1865, there were about 7000 garden plots. 

The tenure of land is either by lease from the' Crown and the 
Church, or held in fee simple ; the latter is the old OSal,^ pre- 
served in modern Norway. Since ancient times, there has been 
a fourfold division of estates : (1.) King's land, bearing a succes- 
sion duty of 1 per cent., and assigned to a family as long as it 
pays its rent ; (2.) Church land ; (3.) Freehold, held by contribut- 

1 The indigenous Poas number twelve, and the Festucss three. 

2 OSal is a congener of the German Edel and Adel, noble, as the "chiefs" of 
Scandinavian and Teutonic communities were the land-holders. Hence the mid. 
Lat. Allodium; and (Cleasby) "feudal" is fee-odal, odal held as a fee (Germ. 
vieh; Dutch, vee; pecunia, capitale) from the king ; Dr Sullivan prefers Feodum 
from Fuidhir, fugitives. Popularly, Udal, Allodium, praedium hereditarium, is 
opposed to feudal. 


ing land-tax ; and (4.) Land charitably bequeathed to the poor. 
Crown property may be granted either by the SyslumaSr, whose 
income is often eked out by a temporary tenure gratis ; or by the 
UmboSsmenn/ of whom there is generally one for every two 
Syslas. They are also paid by grants of Government farms; 
they receive a percentage upon those they lease, and they report 
to the Land-fogeti (treasurer). Church property is under the 
AmtmaSr, controlled by the bishop, but, as a rule, it is sub-leased 
by the parish priest in whose living it is. A large proportion of 
farms is thus held. The poor lands are let by the rector and the 
Hreppstjorar, superintended by the Syslumenn. The tenant, be- 
sides agreeing to support one or more paupers, pays ground-rent 
for all buildings upon the farm, and he can underlet it in parts, 
the sub-tenant paying, perhaps, a barrel of rye per annum. 

Mackenzie compares the tenure of land leased to the farmer 
with the Scotch "steel-bow ;" the rent is paid in two ways : 

1. Landskuld, lease-money or rent owed by the tenant to the 
Crown, the Church, or the landowner. It i^ taken in specie or 
in kind, at the rate of $2 to $3 per $100. The latter is supposed 
to be fixed by ancient valuation ; practically, it is very unsettled ; 
and in Iceland, as elsewhere, the landlord will strive to obtain 
the terms most favourable to himself. 

2. Lausa-fe, the rent on movable property, especially kine 
and sheep, opposed to land, or even land, with its cattle. It 
is generally levied in butter, one of the articles of currency. 
Each tenant is bound to take over from his predecessor the 
permanent stock on certain conditions, and to leave the same 
number when he quits. 

Property cannot be entailed. The estates of those dying in- 
testate are distributed amongst the cliildren; formerly, whole 
shares fell to sons, half shares to daughters — all now share 
equally. This process justifies De Tocqueville, who, expressing 
his surprise that ancient and modern publicists had paid so little 
attention to succession laws, regarded them as the most important 
of political institutions. 

^ The Icelandic UmboS are our Umboth -lands, formerly belonging to the 
bishop, and afterwards transferred to the Crown, Etymologically, the word 
means a charge or stewardship. 


Dufferin seems to think (pp. 141, 142) that almost perpetual 
leases are the rule in Iceland: the contrary is the case; and 
the small proportion of freehold is a crying evil. Many farms 
are let to tenants at will from year to year, with six months* 
notice : evictions are allowed by law for neglect or misconduct, 
easily proved by the rich against the poor; and the ejected 
farmer's only remedy is to disprove the charges by a survey of 
the Hreppstjorar, and of two respectable neighbours. The in- 
stability of landed tenure, the undefined state of the tenant-right, 
and the certainty of rents being raised by the parson or the 
Umboth-superintendent, if profits increase, for instance if minerals 
be discovered, are potent obstacles to regular and energetic im- 
provement. The remedy evidently lies in the sale of Crown 
property, and in the secularisation of Church lands, with due 
compensation to the actual holders. 

The farms are all named, mostly from natural features. There 
are, however, not a few which have borrowed from the outer 
world, for instance a Hamburg in the Fljotsdalr : even " Jeru- 
salem" is not unknown — the result of Crusading days. The 
best are on the north side of the island; yet the three most 
generally cited as models are ViSey off the west coast, and 
Holmar and Mo'Srudalr, to the east. The south-western (not 
the southern) shore supports a fishing rather than a pastoral 
or agricultural population. The non-maritime people live in 
scattered homesteads, which nowhere form the humblest village: 
this is the unit of the constitutional machinery of Iceland, as 
the township was amongst the Anglo-Saxons. The only settle- 
ments are the trading-places on the sea-shore. 

Drainage and fencing are not wholly neglected. In 1856 
there were 40,202 fathoms of ditching, and 44,671 fathoms of 
railing, these improvements being all modern work. Each farm 
has, besides the " tiin," a bit of lowland upon which grass is 
grown, and a large extent of barren hill and moorland, where 
the sheep graze during the fine season ; this is always assumed 
to belong to the property. Hence the Shetland phrase, " fra the 
heist off the hill to the lawest off the ebbe" (milli fjalls og fjoru). 
The "Beer" is divided from its neighbours by VorSur (" warders"), 
or landmarks, natural and artificial ; the latter are stone heaps. 


the former some marked limit, as a hill, a rock, or a stream. 
The boundaries are a perpetual cause of dispute, and some of 
the most complicated lawsuits have thus arisen. Not a few of 
the wilder peasantry live in a chronic state of land-feud ; they 
" make it up " over their cups, and they return to the natural 
belligerent condition when sober. 

The tenants of an Iceland farm usually number six classes. 

1. Bonders (Bsendr),^ the Shetland Boonds, franklins, farmers, 
or yeomen ; the " upper ten." 

2. Hiismenn, or tomthusmenn, who have houses upon the 
farm, but are not allowed pasturage or haymaking. They have 
been confounded by travellers with — 

3. Kaupamenn, labourers working for hire. 

4. Hjaleigumenn (crofters), those who occupy the hjaleiga, or 
a small farm, an appendage to the larger establishments. 

5. Servants (Icel. Vinnumenn). 

6. Paupers (Icel. Omagar or MSursetningr). 

Much harm is done by the multitude of lazy loons that gathers 
round the farmer, a practice dating from ancient days, all striving 
to live upon the best of the land, with the least amount of work. 

Thus we see that " agriculture," being absolutely confined to 
haymaking, is a mere misnomer in Iceland, nearly three-quarters 
of whose population is pastoral, though not nomad. The wealth 
of the country consists of sheep, horses, and black cattle ; goats 
are spoken of in the north, but the author did not see a single 

Since the first third of the nineteenth century, Iceland has 
witnessed a gradual and regular increase of population, and a 
proportionate decrease of live stock. ^ The following are the 
numbers of animals given by Mackenzie for 1804 : 

1 See Section YI. 

2 The author's statement made in the Standard found objectors. Hr E. Mag- 
nusson impudently contradicted what he termed a contradictio in adjedo, appar- 
ently ignorant of the simple truth that neither logic nor Latin can affect facts 
and figures. It is amply confirmed by the Consular Eeport of 1870-71 : "The 
stocks of domestic animals have shown a steady tendency to decrease, especially 
as regards the sheep flocks, which at times have been cruelly decimated by scab 
epidemics ; the occasional failure of the grass crops exercises also a destructive 
influence on their herds and flocks generally, as they have no means at hand of 
substituting other fodder for the excellent wild pastures with which in ordinary 
years Nature supplies them so bounteously. These occasional epidemics and 





Milch ewes, 


Heifers, . 


Rams and wethers, . 


Bulls and oxen, 


Lambs, . 


Calves, . 


Total of sheep. 


Total of cattle, 


Total of horses, 


In 1834-35, according to Mr John Barrow, jun., repeated in 
1854 by Mr Pliny Miles, the total of sheep, the chief staple of the 
land, was 500,000. M. Eugene Eobert gives 617,401 for 1845. 
But in 1855 appeared the disease {scabies) which, according to 
the "Oxonian" (p. 389), in two years killed off 200,000 head: in 
many parts of the island it still rages. 

In 1863 PaijkuU assigned 350,000 sheep and 22,000 head of 
black cattle to 68,000 souls. In 1871 the official numbers are : 

Milch ewes and lambs. 
Barren ewes, ..... 
"Wethers and rams above one year old, . 
Yearlings, ...... 







or a falling off of 134,000, where the population has gained since 
1834-35 upwards of 13,700. 

The next source of profit in Iceland is breeding black cattle. 
According to the same traveller, the total in 1834 was 36,000 
to 40,000 head. The official tables for 1871 give : 

Cows and calves, 

Bulls and bullocks above one year old, .... 

Yearlings, ......... 


or a falling off of nearly half, when the population has increased 
about one-fifth. 

The following table shows the comparative numbers : 





1855 there were of shee 

p, 489,132 c 

)f horned cat 

tie, (?) 

of horses, 






























grass failures are bewailed by the Icelander as national calamities; but it is a 
question whether they may not prove to be the reverse, by opening his eyes to 
the necessity of devoting his energies and small capital to the better and more 
regular prosecution of the fisheries, which are boundless in extent, and less de- 
pendent on vicissitudes and seasons. " 


Thus, not including 1871, the number of horses since 1855 has 
decreased upwards of 25 per cent., horned cattle 23 per cent., and 
sheep a little more than 31 per cent. 

Black cattle, according to Mackenzie, resemble the largest 
Highland breed ; the author thought them far more like our 
short-horns in general, and especially Alderneys. Dillon makes 
them generally hornless,^ and the breed has remained unchanged. 
The cows yield an abundance of milk, sometimes ten to twelve 
quarts a day. There has been no disease amongst the " slaughter- 
creatures," as Icelanders call black cattle, but the gold of Cali- 
fornia and Australia has affected even Ultima Thule. In 
1830-40 the price of a cow, $4, had increased to $28 in 1870 ; 
in 1872 it had risen to $50-$80, and the animal often cost 
$100 to $120 in rearing. Twenty years ago the pound of beef 
fetched eight to ten skillings (farthings) ; now it averages one 
mark (fourpence) to one mark three skillings. Few householders 
own more than eight head of cattle, and probably half that 
number would be a high average. The community lives chiefly 
upon milk and fish ; hence the sale of a cow is to the children 
the death of a friend, causing tears and lamentations. 

The large but scattered flocks of sheep are the chief support 
of the islandry. The peasants pay rent and debts in June and 
July by the wool which is then washed and ready for sale ; and 
in September and October by wether-mutton smoked and cured ; 
by grease and tallow, and by sheep-skins and lamb-skins with 
the coat on. They reserve the butter and cheese mostly for 
bargains and for household use. In 1770 the wether sold for 
$1 ; in 1810 it had risen to $2, and even $5, and in 1872 to $9. 
Besides supplying food, the animals yield material for local in- 
dustries — coarse cloth, clothes, frocks and jackets, mittens, stock- 
ings and socks, made by the women, and used or exported. The 
fleece, which may average two to four pounds,^ is not sheared. 

^ " Perhaps, " says Peirce (p. 29), "this is why the official statistics, with a 
sort of grim humour, number the 'horned cattle' at 23,713, while other authori- 
ties say there are 40,000 'cattle.'" He also quotes Dillon (p. 291) about four- 
horned and six-horned sheep — " quadricorns " are exceptional in Iceland as in 
most countries. 

^ More exactly the average yield of a one-year old is I5 lb. ; of a two-year, 2| lbs. ; 
and of a three-year old, 3 lbs. 


but " roo'd," or plucked when loose, with little pain to the wearer. 
Though coarse it is long, while under the hard outer coat (Icel. 
Tog or Thel) there is a fine soft tog, not a little resembling the 
"Pashm" of Persia, Afghanistan, and Northern India. The 
price varies considerably, the usual limits being tenpence to a 
shilling. Of course it depends greatly upon the export, which 
in some years has reached 1,750,000 lbs. ; in 1868 about 625,000 
lbs. were shipped to England. The " scraggy," long-legged ani- 
mal suggests, on the whole, the old Scotch breed. Intermixture 
of merino and other blood has been partially tried, but it is a dis- 
puted point w^hether improved form and quality of wool have or 
have not brought increased liability to disease. The surest way 
to improve the island-sheep is to feed it better, but the peasant 
is too lazy to shear the hills for hay not absolutely necessary. 

The exportation of live stock unaccompanied by proportional 
emigration may end in a calamity. Fatal famines deform the 
island annals, and in any year another may result from an in- 
clement summer, producing scarcity of grass. It would be jus- 
tifiable to part with necessaries if the profits were laid out upon 
improvements ; but this is far from being the case. The peasant 
sells his cattle and sheep to buy for himself vile tobacco; " bogus" 
cognac ; brennivin or kornschnaps, and perhaps even " port " and 
" sherry ; " and for his wife chignon and crinolines, silks and 
calicoes, instead of the homely but lasting frieze cloth. His 
grandfather infused Iceland moss ; he must drink coffee, while 
raisins or cassonade are replaced by candied or loaf sugar. Pigs 
boiled wdth rice and milk were then offered to guests, and an- 
gelica root was a hoccon ghiotto. And so with other matters. 
The Althing has attempted to curb the crying evil of ever in- 
creasing drunkenness, the worst disease of the island because the 
most general, by a tax which will be described under the head 
of cesses ; and sensible men would see it increased. 

During the last forty years the number of horses has gradually 
fallen to half; in 1871 the total was only 3164 over the 26,324 
which Mackenzie gave for a.d. 1804. In 1834, according to 
John Barrow, jun., a careful observer, though apparently his 
figures do not come from official sources, the census varied from 
50,000 to 60,000; and the same is given for 1835 by Mr Pliny 


Miles (1854), who may have copied his predecessor. In 1845 
the census numbered 34,584. In 1862 the late Professor Paij- 
kull counted 37,000, or 0*5 per head of population; during that 
year 828 (?) were exported to Scotland via Belgium. The last 
census, for June 6, 1871, shows : 

Horses and mares, four years old and upwards, . . 23,059 
,, ,, under three years, .... 6,629 

Total, 29,688 

The following figures denote only the exportation from the 
capital ; though many animals are bought in other parts of the 
island, they are usually driven to Eeykjavik, and the people 
complain that the west, where horse-flesh is scarcest, sends out 
the most. Those embarked at the chief port, sometimes in troops 
of 400, were either two-year olds or upwards of ten-year old, and 
many appeared to the author fit only for the knacker's yard. 

In 1861 (Consular Keports, 1865) were imported into Great Britain, 444 head. 

,, 1862 total export (Paijkull) 828 head ; Pari. Kep. give 


,, 1863 Consular Report ,, 


,,1864 ,, and official figures on island ,, 


,, 1869 official figures . „ 


„ 1870 


„ 1871 


,, 1872 a conjecture perhaps understated „ 

2000 2 

For three years Dr Hjaltalin advised the Althing to impose a 
heavy tax on exported horses, and to expend the income upon 
road-making : the plan was too sensible to suit the majority. 
The theorists, who are not a few in Iceland and Denmark, object 
to unfree trade, and look only at present profits — when wiU 
nations learn that to imitate one another often produces not a 
copy but a caricature ? Upon the subject of horse-flesh, further 
details will be found in the Journal. 

To resume: Mr Consul Crowe (Report, 1870-71) gives the 
following value-tables of farm-produce : 

1 Valued at a total of £2468, or about £5, 6s. a head. The prices will be con- 
sidered in the course of the Journal. 

2 The steamer "Queen" in 1872 embarked 1030 head and the "Yarrow" 1414; 
these figures are given from the Scotsman. In 1873 the price had risen to £10 to 
£14, and the hire was a Danish dollar a day; thus the peasant was deprived of 
transport for himself and his goods. 



Salt meat, brls. 













Tallow, lbs. . 







Salted sheep- 

skins, pieces. 







Sheep-skins, do. 







White wool, lbs. 







Black ,, ,, 







Mixed ,, ,, 







Of which the annual exported value is — 

Salt meat. 
Tallow, . . 
Salted sheep-skins. 
White wool, . 
Black ,, . 
Mixed ,, . 


S. Amt. 

W. Amt. 

N. &E. 

"Whole Island. 

Eix dols. 

Kix dols. 

Rix dols. 


Eix dols. 






















2, 095 brls. 
484,240 lbs. 


20,988 „ 
1,336, 75 5 lbs. 

14,610 „ 
112,521 „ 












§ 4. Fisheries. 

Faber mentions forty-five species of fish, seven of them being 
inhabitants of fresh waters ; but the list is evidently incomplete. 
Of Cetacese alone the Iceland seas produce thirteen varieties : we 
shall visit the headquarters of whale-catching on the eastern 
coast. The HakaU, or edible shark, is also an animal of import- 
ance far surpassing the seal. The halibut (Spraka) is rare in the 
south, but it is found in abundance in the north-west ; the sole 
is wanting, and the herring (Sild) is unaccountably absent, ex- 
cept in the north and east ; the latter sometimes enters the bays 
and gives a little work about SeySisfjorS and Akureyri, but it 
does not pay.^ Mackerel, lobsters and oysters, shrimps and 

1 This is not the case with Norway, situated in the latitude of Iceland and 
Greenland, as the old rhyme shows : 


prawns, are unknown ; there are crabs which contain little meat, 
and a variety of limpets [Patella), and mussels {Mytilus edulis), 
eaten and used for bait. The principal fish upon the coast are 
the true cod (Gades morrhua) ; the ling {Lota morrhua), with 
the long dorsal fin ; the hake (G. merlucius) ; the haddock {G. 
mglefinnns) ; the coal-fish (Icel. Isa ; G. carbonarius) ; the skate 
{Raia; Icel. Skata), and the stinging-ray {B. trygon; Icel. GraS- 
skata or Tindabikkja). The rivers teem with salmon {S. solar) ; 
the lakes and ponds with trout (Silungr) and char {Salmo 

Ichthyological study is everywhere in its infancy, and awaits 
its full development, when the greatly increased density of 
earth's population will enhance the difficulty of supplying it 
with a sufficiency of food. The late Professor Agassiz ably vin- 
dicated the superiority of fish-diet for brain-workers, as well as 
for the poor classes of society, — it abounds in phosphorus and 
" ohne Phosphor keine Gedanken." The noble fisheries of Ice- 
land are still in the most primitive style of development ; the ap- 
pliances are of the poorest, and the people display neither energy 
nor intelligence, which must be aroused by an impulse from with- 
out. The returns, as we shall see, are considerable, but they 
might be indefinitely augmented if modern improvements and 
commercial enterprise were enlisted to make the best of this 
generous source of wealth. 

For the ocean is emphatically the poor man's larder. With 
equal capital and labour it is made far more productive than the 
earth, and the ratio is ever increasing in its favour. Whilst 
land-animals give birth to one or two young at a time, fish pro- 
duce their millions, and the bulk far exceeds anything that 
walks the earth. Whilst, at most, one-eighth of Iceland is capable 
of yielding food in any appreciable quantities, the circumpolar 

" Sidst i Torri og forst i Gio. 
Skal Sild og Hval vsere i Sio." 
" At the last of Torri (first moon after Christmas) and first of Gio (the second 
The sillock (herring, Clupea harengus) and whale in the sea will show." 

Yet in Coxe's time (late eighteenth century) the herring had disappeared from 
the shore, being found only in deep water ; and Fortia (Travels in Sweden) tells us, 
that firing of guns was not allowed for fear of frightening the fickle fish. 

^ Concerning the fresh-water fishes, details will be found in the Journal. 


seas swarm with profuse life, tier upon tier extending thousands 
of feet deep. "In hot latitudes the deep-sea temperature di- 
minishes till the mercury stands at 40° (F.) ; in the parallel of 
70° the ocean, many degrees warmer than the land-surface, is of 
the same temperature at all depths." ^ And as the voyager ad- 
vances toward the poles, the diffusion of animal life increases 
prodigiously. The waters around Iceland, as about Greenland, 
produce endless forage for their tenants, such as the squids (Se- 
piadce), and the Clio Borealis, the favourite pasture of the whale ; 
whilst fine and nutritious grasses occupying the shore and the 
shallows yield pasture for the seals.^ The rivers rolling glacier- 
water, and the white streams tinged by detritus, are, it is true, 
barren; but they bear down the alluvium of cultivated lands, 
and the drainage serves to augment the supply of food. 

The abundant sea-harvests, especially of cod, soon attracted the 
attention of foreign nations ; and as early as a.d. 1412, thirty 
European ships or crafts frequented the coasts of Iceland. Until 
1872, the maritime territorial limits of four Danish, or nearly 
twenty English, miles, laid down by the law of 1787, were pre- 
served with all its wholesome provisions, pains, and penalties. 
The new retains the old ordinance in case of necessity, but an- 
nuls certain objectionable parts; for instance, it allows the neces- 
sary landing and warehousing of fishermen's stores on the pay- 
ment of a moderate and conditional charge to the local poor-box. 

It has been shown that the fisheries of Iceland are worked by 
3500 boats, manned by upwards of 5000 souls, only one-tenth of 
those employed upon the farms. But this would give a false idea 
of the important industry which, depending upon the peculiar cha- 
racter of the people, has determined more than anything else the 
modes and the inspiration of national life. Especially between 
February and May, the " fishing peasants " flock to the shore ; the 
seaboard farms and factories become populous, and the whole 

^ K. J. Walker, quoted by Peirce. Dr Carpenter and Professor Wyville Thomson, 
in the "Lightning," made the remarkable discovery that sea- water at different 
depths, is of different temperatures — the older theory being that the sea was of 
a uniform temperature of 39° (F.). 

^ In intertropical and temperate latitudes Phocce and Manatis devour the fetid 
marine vegetation which collects on river bars, chokes the mouths, and causes 
'* Yellow Jack " to prevail from Florida to Eio de Janeiro. 


energy and interests of the island are turned to its characteristic 
occupation. Off the south-western county there is perennial 
fishery — salmon in spring, and cod nearly all the year.i 

Cod fishing is carried on along the coast generally, sometimes 
even in the inner harbours. The western shores are peculiarly 
rich; and that most favoured is the southern coast between 
Keflavik and HafnafjorS. Desolate in appearance beyond all 
other regions, excepting the giant JokuUs to the south-east, the 
south-western peninsula has deserved the name Gullbringu 
Sysla, "gold-bearing county," from its sulphur diggings and 
magnificent fisheries.^ And a glance at the map will show the 
admirable spawning-grounds off the western coast. 

A royal decree, dated a.d. 1292, forbids the sale of dried cod 
to foreigners on the ground of an expected famine. Before the 
Eeformation, England fished for herself; and as late as James I. 
the Iceland waters, where few are now seen, employed 150 
vessels. Little by little, France, with patient and strenuous 
action, established a hold on, and afterwards a monopoly of, the 
Iceland deep-sea fishery; thus securing, as in Newfoundland, not 
only a source of national wealth, but a powerful reserve of ex- 
perienced seamen. Certainly, no better school for sailors can be 
imagined than the dangerous and intricate navigation of the Ice- 
land FjorSs. In 1859, there were 269 French smacks and ships, 
varying from forty to eighty tons burden, and manned by 7000 
fishermen ; in 1872, even after the Prussian-French war, these 
figures were 250, averaging ninety tonneaux, and 3000 hands 
{Revue Maritime et Coloniale). They are protected by two, 
formerly three, men-of-war, which cruise about, repressing dis- 
orders, and aiding their compatriots with spars, provisions, and 
medical comforts. Collisions between natives and foreigners 

^ Of course the " finny brood " is not without its folk-lore. There is a variety 
of "troll-fish " which, being ominous and unlucky, are thrown overboard by their 
captors. The same takes place farther south, as we learn from Lucas Dobes 
(Faeroe Reseratar, Copenhagen, 1673). 

^ " Gullbringus^sla (literally, Goldbreast county) derives its name from some 
hills called Gullbringur (Goldbreasts), about twelve English miles distant from 
Reykjavik. They were so called because tradition says that the old Viking Egill 
Skallagrimsson there buried the treasure given him by King Athelstan for his 
assistance at the battle of Brunenburgh " (Jon A. Hjaltalin). This derivation is 
far more probable than the popular version given in the text : for a third inter- 
pretation see the Journal, chap. ii. 


take place when the latter are driven, by the weather, the 
currents, and the movements of the fish, within the prohibited 
limits, now one league (= three miles) from the coast : also 
entanglement of gear often ends in a free fight. Forbes (Com- 
mander, RK) tells us (p. 208) that no such powerful reserve of 
trained seamen exists, except those engaged in the same occu- 
pation, and under similar regulations, on the cod-banks of New- 

Mr Consul Crowe (1865-66 and 1870-71), whose exhaus- 
tive Eeports must be consulted for details which cannot find 
room in these pages, divides the Iceland " fisheries of the pre- 
sent day into three kinds, viz., the cod-fishery, shark-fishery, and 

According to him (p. 30), the large cod, here not a migratory fish, 

remain during the winter near the island, and from February to 

March approach the south and west coasts to spawn, their course 

being from the west and south. The earliest and best fishings 

begin with early spring in the more temperate waters, and 

farther northwards about latter June or early July, ending 

with August. The fish, where it keeps close to the bottom, is 

landed by small drift-nets ; it is " more squat and plump, with 

smaller head," than those caught on the hook. Fishing with 

the ordinary long lines, and deep-sea or hand lines, opens about 

mid April ; the little extension given to it arises from the poverty 

of the people. From one to four lengths of a strong thick line, 

each measuring sixty fathoms, are spliced together ; and hanging 

lines six feet long are fastened at distances of from six to nine 

feet : the French can afford to use lines measuring 1500 to 2000 

fathoms. The hook is the ordinary tinned English (No. 5), 

baited with mussels. " In order to obtain a white flesh, the first 

operation is to rip up the belly, the head is cut off, and the body 

is gutted, the liver and roe being separated and carefully kept. 

The backbone (blod-dalkr) is next extracted, as far as the third 

joint below the navel, after which the carcase is washed in salt 

water, and salted, one barrel (about 224 lbs.) being used to 352 

lbs. After lying in salt for three or four days, the fish is washed 

and laid out singly on the rocks to dry ; it is protected from dust 

and damp, and is frequently turned by the women, that both 
VOL. I. N 


sides may be alike." For home consumption, the cod is split 
and hung up unsalted in the " wind-house." It is known by its 
shrivelled appearance, and, like the refuse heads, it is eaten un- 
cooked. Although Hamburg pays 12s. 6d. per cwt. for fish 
guano, Iceland neglects this exportation. Finally, the cod-fish 
is sent in great part to N"orthern Europe (Denmark and Ham- 
burg), and at least one-half to Spain and the Mediterranean ; in 
fact, wherever the old world keeps Lent, and eats " baccala." The 
French, although great consumers, of course supply themselves. 

Details concerning the whale and the shark will be found in the 
Journal (chap. xiii.). The supply of salmon from the northern 
and western coasts has been pronounced "literally inexhaust- 
ible ;" yet mismanagement of rivers shows that they can greatly 
be damaged. The Laxa, near Eeykjavik, in Mackenzie's day 
(1810), yielded from 2000 to 3000 lbs. per annum; in 1872, the 
catch was nearly nil, although in the summer of 1873 it some- 
what improved. Salmon was exported as early as 1624, but in 
small and irregular quantities, till taken up by Messrs Eitchie 
of Peterhead and Akranes. The house still employs nine Scotch 
hands to preserve the fish caught in the BorgarfjorS, the em- 
bouchure of the great Hvita. But, although salmon began to 
appear in the returns as a regular article of export, the 22,000 
lbs. of 1858 fell to 4000 in 1868, on account of the river being 
overworked. During the early season of 1872, the take was 
small, but it afterwards so increased that tins were wanting for 
preserves : the superintendent at Akranes pays thirteen skill - 
ings (3Jd.) per lb. to the BorgarfjorS fishermen. 

Iceland lacks the Otaria or eared seals, sea lions, elephants, 
and wolves, of which one species, the 0. Falhlandia, supplies 
such valuable pelts ; all its Phocse are inauriculate. Naturalists 
give six species, viz. : 

1. Phoca foetida. 

2. Callocephalus vitulinus or Phoca littorea, the common land- 

3. Phoca harbata, the great seal. 

4. Phoca Grcenlandica or oceanica, the harp-seal. 

5. Cystophora cristata or leonica, hooded or hood-cap seal 


6. Phocula lepoTina, haaf-fish or open-sea seal. 

Old authors mention four kinds, viz., Eostungr (walrus), VoSru- 
selr, BloSruselr, and Granselr. Modern Icelanders preserve, like 
the Scotch,^ three great divisions : 1. The land-seal, which keeps 
near the shore, and breeds there in spring ; 2. The open-sea seal, 
that affects the distant rocks and reefs ; and 3. The Greenland 
seal, which, during winter, haunts the FjorSs. Further details 
will be found in the Journal. 

The Iceland waters show four porpoises, viz. : 

1. JDelphinus phoccena, the common porpoise, smallest of the 

2. Delpliinus hidens or hidentatus, Baleine a bee, the bottle- 
head or bottle-nosed whale ; the " ca'ing whale " of the Scoto- 
Scandinavian islands. 

3. Delphimis orca, the grampus. 

4. AlbicaTis or white Beluga. 

The following are approximate returns for fish and their pro- 
ducts exported from Iceland in — 




Fish, . 

650,000 lbs. 



Dried fish, . 

750,000 lbs. 

938,080 lbs. 

527,040 lbs. 

Salt cod, 

150 barrels 

5,248,000 lbs. 

7,507,840 lbs. 

Cod oil, 

807 „ 


Shark oil, 

1,663 ,, 

3,259 barrels 

9,424 barrels 

Seal oil, 

24 „ 


Fish liver, . 

12 „ 


Salted salmon, 

28 „ 

5,810 lbs. 

245,392 lbs. 

Salted shark skins 

, 1,568 



The subjoined table shows what has been the export of cod 
and oil during the last six years. 

The three species on the west coast of Scotland are : 

1. The Rawn, or Common Seal {Phoca vitulina), from five to six feet long; 

coat, tawny- white, spotted brownish -black on back and sides, with 
darker haslets and dusky-grey belly. The skin is of short bristly hair, 
but no fur. 

2. The Tapraist, or Grey Seal {Halichcerus griseus), somewhat larger than 

the former ; the muzzle is black, and the coat dirty brown, looking 
silver-grey only when the sun strikes the recurved hair. 

3. The Bodach, or Old Man (Halket, Halichcerus ?), somewhat smaller than 

No. 1, and very easily tamed. 



Salt-fish, lbs. 
Dried do. 
Salt-roe, brls. 
Liver oil. 































The noteworthy point is the falling off of the salt-fish : perhaps 
the reason may be the expense of imported salt. During the 
last century the State established a saltern at IsafjorS, but it was 
soon closed for want of patronage — Mr Consul Crowe remarks, 
" The very high temperature of the numerous hot springs which 
are quite accessible, would give an ever ready heat applicable for 
evaporation, and, I believe, a fresh attempt to utilise them would 
repay itself" But salting is ever difficult. 

It must be observed, of this table, that no account is kept of 
the quantity reserved for home consumption, which is doubtless 
large — the daily bread of some 70,000 souls. The general belief, 
however, is that the greater proportion of the catch is exported. 
Mr Consul Crowe thus calculates, according to the prices cur- 
rent during their respective years, the value of the average 
year's export. 

Salt-fish, . 
Dried do. . 
Liver oil, . 


S. Amt. 

W. Amt. 

N. &E. 

Whole Island. 

Value Rds. 

Value Rds. 

Value Rds. 


Value in Rds. 











5,078,898 lbs. 
213,664 ,, 
1,188 brls. 
9,105 „ 









Eds. 527,469 

The following figures show the export of cod from the begin- 
ning of the seventeenth century when the system of monopolies 
was introduced. 

InA.D. 1624 it was of lbs. 2,273,440 

„ 1743 ,, 2,057,680 

1772 ,, 3,091,200 

1784 „ 2,845,920 

In A.D. 1806 it was of lbs. 1,440,400 

1840 „ 5,375,040 

„ 1855 ,, 7,705,280 

„ 1868 „ 4,202,240 


The peculiarity of this table is the immense irregularity of the 

A few model establishments, like the Newfoundland, scattered 
round the island would teach the best and cheapest way of 
curing fish — now a barbarous process of turning, scraping, 
splitting, and housing, without "stages," "platforms," or other 
necessaries. The substitution of improved decked and half- 
decked smacks for the open row-boats actually in use, would 
save the time and toil at present wilfully wasted : improvement 
of the fishing lines is also urgently wanted. But the initiative 
must come from Denmark or, at least, from abroad ; Iceland has 
remained so hopelessly in the background that she has not the 
means, even if she has the will, to help herself. 

Piscator in Iceland will do somewhat better than Venator: 
he will find the lakes, lakelets, and rivers which do not issue 
directly from snow-mountains, rich in fish. The salmon ascends 
the streams as far as their cataracts ; it is finer for the table than 
that supplied by our home market. The trout, speckled and 
white-fleshed, is not worth eating: the Forelle,^ or red char 
(Salmo Alpinus), called " sea-trout " in the Scoto-Scandinavian 
islands, and elsewhere " salmon-trout," is coarse and rank — too 
trouty, as the red mullet of the Levant is too muUety. Some 
travellers limit the weight to four pounds ; others increase it to 
ten and even fifteen. At the outlet of the Thingvalla Lake the 
maximum of twenty-five, brought to bank in a few hours, was seven 
pounds, and only two were under six pounds; but the char does 
not give such good sport as the white-fleshed. Fishing may be had 
within a few hours of Eeykjavik, and a day shadowed with dense 
clouds after a burst of sun will soon fill the basket. But the 
sport is uncivilised like the land. The fish either rush at the 
bait, " snapping at flies," as Icelanders say, and swallowing the 
food before it touches water, or they lie sulking and will not 
be persuaded to rise. Some travellers curiously assert that in 

^ Forelle is German and Danish ; the general Icelandic name of trout is 
Silungr, but, as might be expected, the nomenclature is rich. Hooker notices this 
char (i. 97). The " suburtingur " of Baring-Gould (Appendix, 423), a fresh- 
water fish with pink-coloured flesh and sometimes weighing twenty pounds, does 
not appear in the Dictionary. 


a region full of gnats and midges, the fish, and especially the 
trout, are " unaccustomed to flies." The contrary is the case, 
but the preference greatly varies ; some find the only rule that 
darker colours are usually bit at most greedily; while others 
declare the fish fondest of artificial minnows, spoon-bait, or flies 
with any kind of tinsel, when not to be tempted by the ordinary 
loch fly. The author's friends tried in turns the black midge ; 
the grilse; the black hackle, with silver wing; the Hofland's 
fancy, red body and partridge wing ; the common cow-dung ; the 
marsh brown ; the red fly, with jay's wing ; and the woodcock 
wing, with body banded red and orange. The fisherman should 
bring out the ordinary trout-hook and salmon-bait which he uses 
at home, always remembering that the spring in Iceland is a 
month to six weeks later than that of Scotland. He must not 
neglect to provide himself with gloves and face-veil to keep out 
the " midges " which, under that humble name, sting as severely 
as the mosquitoes of the tropics. 

§ 5. Industry. 

The principal occupation of the women is spinning yarn 
during the summer, and knitting and weaving in winter. A 
rude loom fixed and upstanding, not a little like that of ancient 
Egypt and of modern Central Africa, and worked, as in negro- 
land, by both sexes, stands in every farm.i A good hand can 
weave three yards a day. The VaSmal ^ is the Danish Vadmel, 
and the Wadmaal, Wadmal, or Shetland Claith of the Scoto-Scan- 
dinavian archipelago; it much resembles the tweeled cloth or 
frieze worn by the Leith fishermen and the Media-lana of 
Northern Italy. 

There is only one kind of Wadmal generally worn, but in 
most parts of the island, and especially in the east, there are finer 
qualities used for " store-clothes " and woman's attire. The 

^ A description and plate are found in Olafsson. 

^ The word VaSmal (pron. Vathmowl) is derived from Va©, Vo^^, or VofJ, stuff, 
cloth, weeds {e.g., widows' "weeds"); and Mai, a measure — ** stuff- measure," 
because it was the standard of all value and payment before a coinage came into 
use (Cleasby). The form "Wadmal" will here be preserved, although England 
I>refers "Wadmill," e.<7., in " "Wadmill-till " for waggons. 


Ormadiikr is worked Kke drill, the Einskepta like twill. It is 
sold by the ell, or two Danish feet (= 2| English feet), at the 
following rates — the breadths being 2 to 2-5 feet and the length 
indefinite : 

Coarse or common, 

. $0 



3 8 per ell 

Middling, .... 


8 „ 

5 „ 

Fine and thin (skarlat), 


„ 1 


The manufacture varies in the several Quarters. The usual 
colours are grey, black, light-blue, and murret (Icel. Morautt), 
the moret or russet-brown of the undyed wool ; white is some- 
times seen, but not the red — now confined to tradition. It is 
excellent stuff, durable, and, after a fashion, waterproof. The 
moderns prefer to this home-made article the cheap broad-cloths 
and long-cloths of European machinery ; and so in West Africa 
we find the admirable " native " pagnes becoming too expensive 
for everyday work. 

Details concerning the goldsmith's trade will be found in the 
Journal. The principal is silver filagree, which will compare 
with that of Norway, but poorly with the work of Genoa, Malta, 
Delhi, and Trichinopoly. 

A few hands find employment as pilots.^ They are licensed 

1 The following is the translation of the "Advertisement to mariners who enter 
the harbour of Reykjavik :" 

*' In pursuance of the laws, and under the punishment fixed by law, the follow- 
ing rules are to be attended to by the masters and crews of vessels that touch at 
the port of Reykjavik. 

" 1 . As suspected, with regard to health, are considered all vessels (a) coming from 
countries or places where pestilential or epidemic diseases are found ; (b) having 
merchandises on board, which are brought from such countries or places, or there 
packed up ; (c) having had during the voyage, or having at the arrival, any sick 
person on board, whose disease can be considered as ill-natured or contagious ; (d) 
having had, on the sea or near the land, communication with any vessel from sus- 
pected or infected places. Such vessels are bound, at the arrival to the harbour, 
to hoist a green flag, or, in default of such a one, their national flag on the main- 
top, with which they remain lying, until further order is given. 

"As to other vessels, against whom there is no reason for suspicion of this 
kind, the masters thereof are peremptorily enjoined to land first at the bridge 
of Quarantine (distinguished by a green flag), to be submitted to the legal ex- 
amination of the state of health of their crew, and to produce their bill of health, 
if they have any. Before this is done, nobody from the vessel is permitted to go 
on shore. The landing can take place from 8 o'clock a.m. to 8 o'clock p.m. 

"2. It is the duty of the master, when arrived on shore, instantly to present 
himself in the Police Ofiice for showing there his ship's documents and clearances. 
Loading or unloading is not permitted before this is performed, and Icelandic 
maritime pass redeemed. Commerce on board with the inhabitants (*speculant- 

200 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

without fee by the Syslumenn ; and in the district of a profes- 
sional pilot, men cannot ply the trade without this permission. 
Found at all the commercial establishments, they are generally 
farmers ; he of Vopnaf jorS is a cooper : a flag hoisted at the 
fore is the usual signal. The pay is not settled; upon the 
eastern coast they demand $2 per mast ; the " Queen " paid $6, 
her funnel, it is presumed, being counted as a mast. The Eey- 
kjavik pilot may make £10 per annum. All these gentry come 
or stay away as they please, even when the Danish steamer 
heaves in sight. 

The post office, that best of standards for taking the measure 
of civilisation, also employs a few hands. The postmaster- 
general resides at Copenhagen ; the departmental-chief at Rey- 
kjavik is Hr 0. Finsen, an Icelander, brother to the Amtmand 
of the Fseroe Islands. He keeps a book-store, and sells station- 
ery, plain and fancy, in the Parson's Green, opposite the French 
Consul's ; he speaks English, and nothing can exceed his civility 
to strangers. The tariff which he gave the author was as follows : 
Ship letters weighing three Danish kvints, or half-an-ounce Eng- 

trade ') is not permitted, except after a previous information thereof to the Police- 

"3. When any of the crew commits disorders on shore, it will be examined 
how far the master himself can be considered as responsible for such offences com- 
mitted by his crew, especially when he has permitted them to remain on shore 
till late in the evening or night. 

"4. In order that the breeding of the Eider ducks in the islands in the neigh- 
bourhood of the harbour (ViSey, Engey, etc, ) shall not be disttirbed, no firing of 
cannons, except in cases of distress, or as to men-of-war, in what the service ex- 
acts, is permitted within half-a-mile Danish (about two and a half miles English), 
or of guns within a quarter of a mile Danish (one and a quarter English) from the 
said islands. Nor is it permitted to go on shore on the uninhabited islands sur- 
rounding or near the harbour (Effersey, Akurey), without a special permission 
from the owner ; hunting or disturbances of the breeding of the birds in these 
places are, accordingly to the laws concerned, punished with peculiar severity. 

**5. It is prohibited to take ballast on the ground or beach belonging to the 
town, except in places pointed out by the Policemaster. Throwing overboard 
of the ballast may not at all take place on the harbour, and not in other places 
than such as will be pointed out by the police. 

"6. Water to the use of mariners may only be taken in places pointed out by 
the police. As water money every vessel of the burthen of above forty tons pays 
for each voyage one rixdollar Danish ; of less burthen, half a rixdollar. 

** Given in the Police Office of Reykjavik, July 4, 1870, 

"(yigned) A. Thorsteinson. 

"N,B, — This advertisement, which is delivered by the pilot, and from the 
Police Office, is made for the use of sailors. Wanting notion of it does not exempt 
from liability to punishment for offences, mentioned or not mentioned here, that 
are committed by mariners." 


lish, pay 14 skiUings for three postage stamps, one of 8, and two. 
of 3 skillings, a total of S^d., which is exorbitant. A similar 
sum is charged for every three additional kvints, or 8d. an ounce. 
Newspapers pay 3|d. for eight kvints ; parcels Is. 6d., and larger 
packages 9d. per cubic foot. 

" Postal delivery " is of course unknown, even at the capital ; 
the same was the case at New York fifteen years ago. The in- 
land post was very poorly managed, but something was done in 
1872 to remedy the main grievance. At Copenhagen the ship- 
postage could be paid, not the land transit; consequently the 
letters for the out-stations, unless re-posted by a friend, lay for 
an indefinite time at the Eeykjavik office. It was common to 
see despatches written in January received on the eastern coast 
in July. The Althing has now established branches at the 
several stations where the steamers stop ; and the sum of $30 
per annum is paid for an immense amount of work; perhaps 
Iceland is not singular in this matter. There is a northern 
courier-road which takes five days via Eeykholt and Arnarvatns- 
heiSi to Akureyri, but in winter it is impassable. No regular 
overland communication connects the western with the eastern 
coast, which the postman visits a few times during the year; 
and if there be any duly prepaid letters for the dangerous 
southern shore, the same courier will run that way. 

A favourite occupation in Iceland is gathering the eider down 
(^5ar-dun) — the Edredon so celebrated as a non-conductor of 
heat. It is best in the coldest climates, like Greenland ; here it 
is good, especially after a wet season, when the birds lay most. 
In the Fseroe Islands, and off the Northumberland coast, it is 
not worth collecting for sale; and the same is the case in the 
Orkneys and Shetlands. For instance, the people of Eousay, 
an island of some thirty square miles, do not preserve their 
" dunters " {Somateria dispar ?) ; they eat the bird after the 
breeding season, in August or September, and they pickle the 
eggs for winter use. The eider is found in the Pacific, but only 
on the northern coasts of Asia and America. 

The first lay of eggs, beginning in May and ending six or 
seven weeks afterwards, is from four to six; the second from 
two to four, and the third from two to three ; if not carried off, 


they will accumulate from ten to sixteen. The duck gives about 
an ounce of down each time the house is robbed, or three nests 
yield a total of half-a-pound. After the third ponte, the drake 
contributes an ounce and a half of whiter material, easily distin- 
guished ; and if further outrage be offered, the unhappy couple 
quit the bereaved home. Older authors speak only of eggs (egg- 
ver), never of the down ; and it is believed that the English trade 
in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries brought the name and 
the article into foreign markets. Jon i Brokey (born A.D. 1584), 
who learned the art and mystery of cleaning in England, intro- 
duced it here ; and the rude process is still preserved. An open 
sieve is made of yarn stretched over a hoop, and the feathers are 
stirred with a pointed stick. Thus the finer material (gras-dtin) 
remains above, the coarser stuff (thang-diin, or seaweed down) 
and the heterogeneous matter fall through — this operation reduces 
the yield to about half. The work is done by men and women, 
in autumn and winter. The Edredon taken from the dead fowl 
loses elasticity, and is of little value. 

The annual supply of Iceland was 2000 lbs. in 1806 ; it gradually 
rose to 5000 or 6000, valued at about £5000 ; and in 1870 it was 
7909 lbs. The two islets, ViSey and Engey, off Eeykjavik, have 
produced as much as 300 lbs. in a year. About IJ lbs. are re- 
quired for an average coverlet. The clean lb. in 1809 cost $3 ; 
in 1854 (Pliny Miles), 50 cents = 2s. 2d. ; in 1860 (Preyer and 
Zirkel), from $2-66 to $4-53 ; in 1862 (Shepherd), 12s. to 15s. ; 
and in 1872, $7 to $8. As the cleaned material sells in England 
for 18s, to 19s. per lb., and the uncleaned for 8s., little profit can 
be made out of it. In " Some Notes on Greenland, etc." (Alpine 
Journal, Aug. 1873), Mr Edward Whymper says still more : " At 
Copenhagen, eider down is worth 20s. per lb., yet in London, 
quilts weighing 4-| lbs. are sold for 36s. How much chopped 
straw and old feathers has the British tradesman to insert in 
order to realise his honest profit ?" 

Eider down is the haute volee of its kind. Most of the sea- 
fowl, especially the Lundi or puffin (Fratercula Mormon), when 
purified of its peculiar pediculus, supply feathers for exportation. 
Since 1866, this branch of industry sent annually some 18,000 or 
19,000 lbs. ; and in 1870 it was 32,081 lbs. Almost every bed has 


its feather quilt ; and the Devonshire superstition that no one 
can die comfortable on a mattress stuffed with goose feathers is 
quite unknown. 

Iceland moss {Lichen Islandicus, Cetraria Islandica), by the 
people called Fjalla-gros (neut. plur.), is still an article of export. 
As the native name shows, it is the gift of the hills. We find it 
on the Brocken, in the Carpathians, the dolomites of Tyrol and 
Italy (where it is called " Lichene "), and in other parts of Europe. 
The brown-green leaf, with deeply palmated edges, much re- 
sembles sunburnt and withered dandelion. It must be washed 
in several waters, to remove the bitter astringent taste, before it 
is eaten with cream and sugar. Of late years, it has been partially 
superseded by the amylaceous " Carrigeen Moss," grown on the 
green terraces of the Ardmore CKffs. This succedaneum, after 
being sun-dried, and allowed to receive one or two showers, is 
again dried, packed in bags, prepared for sale, and used to make 
tea or blancmange. Uno Von Troil (p. 108), or rather Eggert 
Olafsson, gives a list of five lichens, each with its Icelandic 
name ; and Baring-Gould (p. 438) names eight lycopods. Peirce 
(p. 82) distinguishes this " Fell-grass " from a " sort of fj all-grass, 
which is used for making gruel." 

A small quantity of wild Angelica {ArcTiangelica ; Icel. Hvonn), 
though held to be poisonous in the United States, is exported for 
comfitures ; in Iceland, it no longer, as of old, flavours ale, nor is 
it used as a vegetable. The warm root is chewed, or put into 
soup ; and when cut into pieces, it is stored in bottles of brandy 
and schnaps, giving an aromatic taste. The Umbellifer, gTown 
near houses, is less valued than the hill plant ; animals seem to 
despise both. The Eaeroese "Quonn" has a stem thick as a 
man's wrist; the bitter, astringent rind is removed before the 
plant flowers and becomes woody, and the stalk, preserved in 
sugar, is eaten like the leaves, with sweetened milk. 

The simples collected for use are the Holta-rot (Silene acatolis, 
or moss campion) ; the Alchemilla or Burnet, a sanguisorb ; the 
Geldinga-rot {Statice armeria) ; the Speedwell ( Veronica officin- 
alis) ; and various gentians. The " ptarmigan-leaf," or moun- 
tain avens {Dryas octopetala, the Holta-Soley of older travellers, 
and the modern Ejupa-lyng) makes a tea good for jaundice ; the 


root also is eaten. The half-digested flowers of the blaeberry 
( Vaccinium myrtillus) and the bog-whortle ( V. uliginosum) are 
taken from the ptarmigan's crop to make ptisane. The reindeer 
moss {Cenomyce rangiferina), a small pale-green species, with 
hollow stem, is gathered for sheep-feeding. The wild geranium 
also produces a blue tint, of old called Odin's dye. 

Of late years, a little business has been done in women's hair 
for the European market. First three Jews came out, then two, 
and lastly one was found sufficient to manage the trade — we 
shall meet him in the Journal. They cleared about £300, ex- 
aggerated to £3000, especially by the Uond cendre, the most ex- 
pensive item of the £300,000 annually imported by England. 
As a rule, Iceland demands, instead of supplying, false hair ; in 
1871 about 200 lbs. were introduced in the shape of chignons 
and braids. 

Another produce of the island is Iceland spar, which is men- 
tioned in Fortia's " Sweden " as " calcareous spar which doubles 
the object." This "Silfr" or "Silbr-berg," the "Calcite" of Dana, 
is crystallised carbonate of lime, useful for polarising-instru- 
ments. The main axis being disposed at a different angle from 
the minor or bi-axis, causes it to be doubly refracting ; moreover, 
the former expands, whilst the latter contracts. Thus all blood- 
crystals, to specify no other rhombs and hexagons, show two 
parallel lines where only one exists : the white spaces receiving 
the light transmit it to the retina. 

Calcite is produced chiefly on the eastern coast, but its existence 
is reported in many places where the peculiar tenure of ground 
deters the farmer from attempting to better his property. The 
author heard of it on the slopes of the Esja and at BerufjorS. The 
principal mine is at Eey5arfjor5 — not at SeySisfjorS as generally 
asserted. The present contractor is a certain Hr Tullenius, 
who, by private arrangement, pays one-fourth to the Crown and 
three-fourths of the lease to the Church in the person of his 
father-in-law, pastor of the Hofs parish. His establishment is 
at EskifjorS to the north-west of EeySarfjorS, and he transports 
the material in winter by sledges to the coast where it is shipped 
direct for England. 

The spar is taken from calcined basalt, apparently infiltrated 


there in small veins alternating with a green mineral supposed 
to be the plutonic stone transformed ; the surface is often rough 
with a zeolitic or calcareous coat. Large pieces have been 
found : PaijkuU mentions one in the Copenhagen museum 
which was bought for $400 and weighed 176 pounds. Till late 
years it was rare and expensive; the geological museum in 
Jermyn Street contained (1872) only a shabby little bit, and 
a certain professor bought for £6 what was worth £60. In these 
days Mr T. Tennant (naturalist, the Strand) and Mr J. Browning 
(optician. Strand and Minories) can produce hundreds of pounds 
lying useless. The smaller pieces now cost one shilling to one 
shilling and sixpence per pound. The best and most valuable 
specimens are the large prisms; the worst when cut show spotted 
surfaces or prove full of flaws running right through ; some, like 
amber, contain red clay, drops of water, and other heterogeneous 
substances. They can be tested only by the electric light, and 
even that sometimes fails to detect faults which appear after 
working. A friend commissioned the author to bring home 
a large specimen, purchaseable after trial — he knew little of 
the islandry. It is dearer, as usual, in Iceland than in London : 
the people think that all the world wants their one popular 

The following branches of industry still await development : 
Iron-ore certainly exists, but it is hard to see, with the present 
scarcity of coal and wood, what use can be made of it : should 
peat companies prove a success, it may still appear in the market. 
Copper has been reported to occur in the jasper formation, and 
cupriferous specimens have, it is said, been brought to Eeykjavik 
from the great Hrauns of the SkaptarjokuU, the centre of supply 
being at the Blsengr mountain in the Vestr Skaptar Sysla. Pro- 
fessor Winkler of Munich found, on dit, quicksilver at MoSru- 
vellir on the way to Akureyri. The Tindastoll Eange, west of 
the Skagafjor^, has yielded galena embedded in amethyst-quartz : 
and we shall see silver glance. The cryolite, so abundant in 
Greenland,^ is found here and in Norway : the late Mr Ander- 

1 The "Napoleon book" (p. 364), gives a sketch of a " mine de criolithe : " 
one of the veins embedded in granite is eighty feet thick. Mr "Walker (Peirce's 
Report, p. 3) is mistaken in asserting that cryolite is found only in Greenland, 



son met with large blocks, they say, at Vestdalr ; and the Abbe 
Baudoin assured the author that he had seen it on the SeySis- 
fjorS, which opens to the north-east, near a stream north of, and 
about twenty minutes' walk from, Vestdalr. There are large 
supplies of fine obsidian, jasper, zeolites, and chalcedonies. 

Mr Consul Crowe (Report, 1870-71) supplies the following 
statistics of " domestic industry," which, however, is confined to 
woollen articles : 

Two - threaded guernseys, 

One -threaded do. do. 
Two-threaded stockings, prs. 
One-threaded ,, ,, 

Socks, ,, 

Mittens (one-fingered), 

,, (full-fingered), 
Wadmal, yards, 














• . , 






































but doubtless the largest known supplies are there, the development being due in 
great part to American (U. S. ) enterprise. The natives used it only in the pulver- 
ised state — like quartz — to "lengthen out" their snuff"; and similarly the "Red 
Indians " of the Brazil utilised their diamonds as counters. This double fluoride 
of sodium and aluminium, popularly called natural soda, is a mineral of ever in- 
creasing value ; it is employed in the manufacture of soda and soda-salts, hydro- 
fluoric acid, fine glass, and earthenware almost infrangible ; the residue makes a 
flux (" Steven's flux, " etc.) capital for the treatment of difficult metallic ores. 
Perhaps the chief use is in the manufacture of aluminium and its alloys, a noble 
metal which can be carried to white heat before it oxidises, and whose bril- 
liancy is unaltered by sulphuretted hydrogen, water, acids, salts, and organic 
matter. The price till lately was about one-third that of silver, but increased 
cheapness has extended the use, especially in coinage and jewellery. Tenacious 
as silver, sonorous, easily melted and moulded, about as hard as soft iron, and 
one-third the weight of zinc ; it is valuable for watch-cases, mirrors, spectacle- 
frames, opera and field glasses, hand-bells, pendulum-rods, small weights and 
balances, chemical apparatus, instruments of precision, and articles where light- 
ness is required. It has also been converted into dinner services and cooking 
apparatus, in which, unlike tin and copper, it is absolutely harmless. The common 
form is bronze d'' aluminium, with one of that metal to ten parts of copper ; the 
tenacity of the alloy is about that of steel. 


Of which the annual exported value is : 


Two-threaded guernseys. 
One-threaded ,, 
Two-threaded stockings. 
One-threaded ,, 
Socks, .... 
Mittens (one-fingered), . 
,, (full-fingered), . 
Wadmal, yards, . 


S. Amt. 

W. Amt. 


Wholk Island. 

Value Rds. 

Value Rds. 

Value Rds. 



















114 pieces 
14 „ 
48,691 pairs 

767 „ 
17,106 „ 
32,509 „ 

927 „ 

657 yards 














The same Eeport shows : 

** Total value of collective exports. 
Equal to, for each individual. 

Eds. 1,103,936 


" The value, therefore, of an average year's export of fish, farm- 
produce, and domestic industry was in 1870 $1,103,936 ; to this 
may be added the other known articles of export, such as " — 

Eider-down, Eds. 38,064 

Feathers, ,,9,848 

Horses, ,,10,472 

Salmon and other fish, swan-down, fox-skins, etc., ,, 96,064 

Making the total exports from the island, . . $1,200,000 

Or, sterling, . . £133,333 

Equal to about £1, 18s. 4d. per head of population. 

The conclusion to which the reporter arrives from these tables 
is, that " nearly all the cod and roe is fished and exported from 
the western districts, and that the shark fishery and export of 
liver-oil takes place from the north side. 

" On the other hand, the cattle and sheep-rearing, whose pro- 
duce is greater than that of the fisheries, centres in the northern 
and eastern parts of the island, where the excellent natural 
grass pastures are formed in abundance." 


§ 6. Emigration. 

Modern emigration was not attempted till fourteen years ago, 
and the islanders chose the worst destination they could find — 
the Brazil. In 1862, the trial was renewed by some eighty 
head, with the same want of success, except in two or three 
instances; and ten years later, about fifty left to "plant man" in 
the tropical empire. The report is, that they were decimated 
by cholera at Hamburg. A far more auspicious movement was 
made to Minnesota, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin : the head was a 
retired trader, Einar Bjornsson, who bought an island in Lake 
Superior. Shortly before the author's arrival at Eeykjavik, a 
small party of fourteen or seventeen had sailed, not 714, as 
asserted by certain English papers. The later emigrants sent 
home glowing reports of the country and, although those in the 
towns were not so successful, the rural settlers did remarkably 
well. And the movement will be beneficial to the islander, who, 
instead of dawdling away life at home, will learn to labour and 
to wait upon a more progressive race. 

In the summer of 1873, these pioneers were followed by 
200 to 220 recruits, of whom a portion preferred Canada, 
and is said to be doing well. The autumn of 1874 sent out 
340; the men were employed on the Toronto railway, and 
some 40 women went into service. As yet, emigration has 
not had a fair trial; and Icelanders, a pastoral and fishing 
race, are wholly unaccustomed to agriculture and manufac- 
turing. At the same time, they have the advantage of being 
to a certain extent mechanics as well as labourers. The Nor- 
wegian papers, which are translated and spread over the island, 
strongly recommended the movement ; consequently the author- 
ities at Eeykjavik, and the official class in general, as strongly 
opposed it ; but, it need hardly be said, their prejudices are not 
shared by the distinguished Dr Hjaltalin. If this be, as we 
apprehend, the movement of a people seeking, like the Irish 
and the Basques, a new "racial baptism," it may assume im- 
portant dimensions. It might well be worth while for the 
Dominion to secure a number of these sturdy and strong-brained 


Northerners, wlio would form admirable advanced posts along 
the valley of the Sasketchawan. The author's companion in 
travel, Mr Chapman, had the acuteness at once to see the use 
that might be made of the movement, and proposed recommend- 
ing the Government of New Zealand to take advantage of it. 
The common order of Icelanders show the greatest interest in 
America, and strangers are always subjected to cross-examina- 
tion on the subject. If the current be allowed to set that way, 
efforts to arrest it will not be easily checked : for many years 
the author has wondered how and why a poor man ever lives in 
Europe, or a rich man in America. 





§ 1. Taxation. 

The system has the serious drawback of being complicated 
and troublesome ; on the other hand, it dates from olden days, 
and is familiar to the people. The island is not, and of late 
years never has been, self-supporting. The whole revenue does 
not exceed $44,000, and the expenditure for official salaries, 
ecclesiastical and legal establishments, and education, being about 
one-third more (S62,000), the Home Government must supply 
the deficiency.^ 

It has before been observed that property in Iceland, as in 
older England, is measured not by extent, but by produce, the 
area in fact never being ascertained. The basis of calculation is 
the ell of Wadmal, or its equivalent, two heads of fish and a 

1 This again is the popular assertion which has been strongly opposed "by Mr 
Jon A. Hjaltalm (see note at end of Section IIL). The reader, however, will 
observe that the patriotic Icelander confesses to the figures in the text, as matters 
now stand. 

VOL. I. 


fraction bringing it up to nearly 2"50. The hundred ^ was either 
tisaett hundraS (the decimal hundred, 10 X 10), introduced with 
Christianity, and now chiefly used in ecclesiastic and scholastic 
matters, or tolfrsett hundraS (duodecimal, 12 X 10), the latter 
being the root of the Englisli system, which has hitherto success- 
fully resisted foreign innovations. Hence our farmers long re- 
tained in selling cheese the great hundred (120 lbs.) and the 
little hundred (112 lbs.) The old adage says — 

" Six score of men, money, and pins, 
Five score of all other things." 

And the " shock," or half (60), is preserved in the German threat, 
" Shock schweren noth " (You want five dozen) ! 

In old times, there was a double standard : (1.) The hundraS 
talis, hundred (of wool, etc.) by tale = 120 ells ; and (2.) The 
hundraS vegi5 (weight) or sifrs (of silver), in rings, coin, and so 
forth, the latter = 2^ marks = 20 ounces = 60 ortugar, the half 
ortug being probably the unit. The phrase, "Six ells to an 
ounce " {i.e., 120 ells = 20 ounces), refers to silver and Wadmal 
at par ; but, as the coinage was debased, the 6 became success- 
ively 9, 10, 11, and 12. 

In 1810, the absolute value of the hundraS represented : 

One milch cow or two horses (each = 60 ells). 

A proportionate number of sheep (= six to eight) and lambs 
(= eighteen) ; each milch ewe = 20 ells in spring, and each 
wether =10 ells. 

One fishing-boat, with six oars, nets, and lines. 

$46 in specie. 

In 1872, the proportion was : 

One bull, bullock, ox, or cow, calf-bearing or not. 

Two horses or three mares, four years old or upwards ; riding- 
horses = two-thirds of the hundred. 

Six milch or eight milkless ewes ; six wethers, three years old, 
and older ; ten wethers, two years old ; or eighteen sheep, one or 
two years old. 

^ The political sense of 120 franklins, several of which composed the English 
shire, is unknown to Iceland. 


All boats, large and small :^ the oars are not counted, but the 
nets and lines which follow the boat are reckoned at half-a- 
hundred. The half-decked vessel, with nets and lines, ranges 
from 100 to 1-50. 

$40 in specie : $20 represent the half hundred, and nothing 
below it is cessible. 

240 head of fish, which must weigh 2 lbs. In 1770, 48 head 
were = $1 (specie); the value often changes, but the modern 
rate of the FiskvirSi (worth) may be assumed at about 12f skill- 
ings (or in round numbers, 3d.). 

In 1770, 24 ells of Wadmal = $1 : now the ell may represent 
24f skillings. 

Former travellers represented the direct taxes to be tithes, 
church and poor rates, with the Syslumenn's stipends ($1*50 
specie, according to Hooker). They also divided the items of 
taxation into five, viz. : 

1. Skattr, Scat, or tribute,^ originally the poll-tax levied by 
the king on the franklins (Skattbsendr), and afterwards more 
generally applied. This cess is paid when movable property in 
hundreds (cows, sheep, etc.) exceeds the number of individuals 
composing the household, or to be maintained upon the form. De 
Kerguelen describes it as a " tax of twelve francs contributed by 
heads of houses whose income surpasses sixty francs." In 1810 
it was represented by 4*50 skillings per ell of Wadmal, converted 
into specie, or so many fishes, twenty-four to thirty head being 
= $4 to $5. In 1872 it is neither more nor less than forty ; for 
instance, a household of seven souls and eight hundreds pays 
forty fishes, and the same sum would be levied upon seven souls 
and ten hundreds. All officials, priests, and candidates of theo- 
logy, are exempt from this tax. 

2. Gjaf-tollr (gift toll) was so called because at first it was 
supposed to be, or rather it was, a voluntary payment to the 
SyslumaSr and Profastr for overlooking or winking at small 
offences punishable by a fine. It is said to have been paid as 

^ The "Sharker," moreover, pays a variable sum (say 24 skillings) per barrel 
of oil as an hospital tax, and this is now appropriated to the district physician. 

^ Compare the German Schatze and our Scot in Scot-free, Scot and Shot ; 
Roma-skattr would be Peter's Pence. 


early as 1380. The French traveller, who held it to be a volun- 
tary contribution for supporting legal establishments, lays it down 
at sixty centimes to six francs. The rate of Gjaf-toUr, which 
also is levied only on movable property, now represents : 

1 fish per 


5 fish per 


2 „ 


10 „ . 

500 to 900 

3 „ 


12 „ . 

. 1000 to 1200 

4 „ 


20 „ . 

. 1200 

And above 1200 nothing more is taken. 

3. Logmannstollr dates from the days of Icelandic independ- 
ence, and, representing the salaries of the Presidents of Things 
(assemblies), was preserved in memory of the ancient grandeur 
of the island. Formerly, it was thirty-five centimes per head of 
house. It is independent of hundreds, and paid in money at the 
rate of 6f skillings per farm. In case of sub-letting, it in- 
creases ; for instance, if a proprietor leases half his land to an- 
other man, both pay 4|- skillings. The SyslumaSr receives one- 
sixth for the trouble of collecting it, and the rest is paid into 
the public Treasury of Eeykjavik under the Landfogeti. 

4. Althingistollr was a property tax paid, according to 
Cadastre, for the support of the Diet. Each deputy formerly 
received nine francs per diem, and now $3, besides his travelling 
expenses coming and returning home. 

5. Tiund, or tithe, paid to the Crown : these have been dis- 
cussed in the ecclesiastical section. 

The present complicated system will best be explained by a 
copy of the Thinggjaldskvittunarbok or Eeceipt Book for the 
Thinggjald, the general taxes. Each large farmer keeps one, 
and the forms are printed either at Eeykjavik or at Akureyri. 
The following will be filled up as the specimen of cesses levied 
upon a large merchant who hires a farm from the Church : 



Ar (year) 


(number of household), 



(landed property), 


(movable property), 
27 hundreds. 

Skattur, ...... 


Tlund (royal tithe), .... 

Til Samans (total), . 

Logmannstollr, . . . . 


JafnaSarsjoSsgjald, , . . . 

AUt gjaldiS samlagt (grand total), 







(estimated at 

96 : $1). 




The Skattur forms the chief item of the income of the Syslii- 

The Logmannstollr is still devoted to paying law taxes. 

The ThinghiistoUr, or charges for provincial assemblies, is 
always four skillings ; the householder where the meetings take 
place pays the same sum, and receives it back as part of the hire 
of the room. It directly derives from the old Thingfarar-kaup 
(fee for travelling to the Parliament, as judges, jurors, witnesses, 
etc.) levied upon every franklin ; and those who did not pay it 
could neither sit as arbiter nor as "neighbour." The Thing- 
heyjandi (Thing-performer) received a sum proportioned to the 
number of days' journeys he and his retinue had to travel. 

The JafnaSarsjoSsgjald is also called Sakamalatollr, i.e., a re- 
partition fund paid to the Amt or Quarter for public purposes, 
posts, roads, criminal prosecutions, and other unforeseen expenses. 
All who have one and a half hundreds in movable property must 
contribute, and the Amtmenn settle every year the sum required, 
and the proportion appertaining to individuals. 

The merchant contributes no Althing-money, because he is 
not a landed proprietor. This tax is taken from all landed pro- 
perty in the country, except that belonging to the Crown and 
the Church; three-fourths are paid upon immovable, and the 
remaining one-fourth upon all movable possessions. Every 


year, the Hreppstjorar, aided by two landowners of the parish, 
estimates how much Landskyld (rent) is paid either by the 
owner of the farm or by his tenants and sub-tenants. The 
StiftamtmaSr (governor) having decided upon the sum required, 
the amount is duly reparted on landed property. 

In addition to these taxes the Iceland farmer pays three other 
tithes — viz., to the priest, the Church, and the poor (16 "2 ells, or 
$4 each) — besides a Ijostoll or light-tax = 4 lbs. of tallow, to 
illuminate the church: its equivalent being seventy- two skillings. 
He feeds one lamb for the priest (lambsfoSur, or heytoUur — hay- 
tax), or pays its forage = $1, 48sk. Those who own property, 
movable or immovable, to the amount of twenty hundreds, must 
also make offur (offertory) to the priest, amounting to not less 
than $3. Those who own less property than five hundreds, work 
one day for the priest during the hay-making season, or pay an 
equivalent of $1, 4sk. By the law of 12th February 1872 an 
annual tax is levied on landed property, l^sk. per hundred. 
For the money thus raised model farms are to be established 
and young men taught farming. By far the heaviest item of 
taxation is, however, the poor-rate (fatsekra litsvar), over and 
above the poor tithes, for it is nowhere less than equal in amount 
to all the other taxes put together, and in some parishes it is 
even double the amount of all the other taxes. This tax is 
levied by the Hreppstjori at the autumnal parish meeting. The 
pauperism is an evil fraught with imminent danger to the island, 
and requires the immediate attention of the legislature. It 
need hardly be suggested that emigration is the perfect cure for 
the sturdy vagrants who infest the land, and that free passages 
to America, or elsewhere, would be well laid out. 

The taxes in kind (Wadmal, yarn, woollen stuffs, fish, butter, 
hay, oil, cattle, sheep, tallow, hides, skins, and all vendibles) are 
estimated by the Hreppstjori, who transmits his account to the 
SyslumaSr, and the latter checks the report by referring to the 
mean value of the parish. He then commutes what is paid to 
him into money, through some trading firm ; and, as he is liable 
to loss by the fluctuations of the market, he is allowed to retain 
one-third by way of remuneration. A " crack collector," to use 
an Anglo-Indian term, may make as much as $3000 per annum 


— though less than half that sum would probably be a high 

The SyslumaSr again reports to the AmtmaSr, who checks 
his accounts by reference to the mean amount of previous 
revenue, whence results the Kapitulstaxti verSlagsskra, or chap- 
ter value. The specie is then remitted to the Bsearfogeti,^ or 
assistant treasurers. These ofi&cers are three in number; at 
Eeykjavik, where the holder is also the SyslumaSr, at IsafjorS 
(west), and at Akureyri (north). Thence the total revenue finds 
its way into the hands of the Landfogeti, or chief treasurer. 

The taxes on movable property are considered just and equal. 
Those on land are not, because the meanest soil pays as much 
as the best. Another grievance is the unequal distribution of 
the poor-tax, which is managed differently in different Quarters. 
For instance, a clerk with a salary of $300 per annum will be 
charged $10, whilst the priest of the same parish with treble the 
revenue pays only $20. 

§ 2. Coins, Weights, and Measures. 

Accounts in Iceland are kept in skillings, marks, and dollars 
(rigsbankdaler or rixdoUars, and specie). The following table 
shows the comparative English value in 

1809. 1872. 

1 SkiUing = 1 halfpenny = \ ^ ^^^^^^^^ ^^^ one-eighth, in 

( round numbers a farthing. 
16 Skillings or 1 mark = 8 pence, the _ { i pence and four-fifths, say- 

local shilling ( fourpence halfpenny. 

{ 2 shillings and 3 pence, or 60 
6 Marks or 1 Rigsbankdaler 2 r= 4 shillings = < cents (U.S.), the local 

' half-crown. 

2 Rigsbankdalers r= 1 specie dollar = 4 shil- _ ( 4 shillings and 6 pence (the 

lings and 6 pence ( crown). 

The silver mark originally was worth eight ounces (eyrir) ^ 

1 The Icelandic word is Fogeti (low Lat. Yocatus, Germ. Vogtie, a bailiwick, 
hence "Landvogt" Gessler), which dates from the fourteenth century (Cleasbj'-). 
It corresponds with the Fowd and Grand Fowd, chief magistrate of the Scoto- 
Scandinavian islands. 

2 In these pages " $ " always refers to the rixdoUar, which, like the Brazilian 
milreis, is half the milreis of Portugal or the dollar of the United States. 

3 In the plur. Aurar is supposed to be corrupted from Aurum, as the coins first 
known to Scandinavia were Roman and Byzantine, Saxon and English. It was 


of pure silver ; and the eyxir = 6 peningar = 3 ertog. Eacli of 
the eight parts represented six ells of Wadmal, and thus the total 
was = 48 ells. In old times we read of the Ortug, a coin worth 
one-third of an ounce (eyrir) or twenty peningar (pence). In 
these days the Ort is worth only one-fifth of the specie dollar, 
and, being a Norwegian coin, it does not circulate in Iceland. 
The traveller must beware of Norwegian money, especially paper, 
which may be offered him by the Leith agent of the Danish 
steamer — it is perfectly useless, and Hr Salvesen must know it. 

The following is the coinage current on the island : 

Copper. — One skilling and a few old two-skilling bits. 

Base metal. — Two (the penny), three, four, and eight skillings, 
the latter being half a mark. Of half-marks there are three or 
four issues. The old is inscribed "2J- Skillings Schleswig- 
Holstein's Courent ;" the second bears only " 8 skillings," and 
the third, or newest, has the figure 8 above and 2 below. 

Silver. — One mark: of this coin also there are three issues; two 
old, marked respectively 5 and 6 skillings, and one new, marked 
16 skillings. Two marks : now rarely seen. Three marks, or half 
the rixdoUar : very common and very useful. Four marks: an old 
coin almost obsolete, and generally called " one-third specie," 
because equal to eight rigsbank skillings. One specie dollar : 
presenting our crown, and very cumbrous. 

According to a royal proclamation of 25th September and 29th 
December 1873, a new coinage is to take the place of the old 
one next year. It will consist of 


New Coin (Crowns). 

Old Icel. 




1 Krona (100 aurar) 


$4 3 


1 14 

1 Eyrir 



4 farthing. 

4 Kronur 



4 6 

2 „ 



2 3 

50 Aurar 

• =: 

1 8 


25 „ 




8 „ 




applied to coinage opposed to baugr, gold or silver rings. Hence the phrase 
" Aurar ok 6Sal," money and land, ^r or Or was probably the name of a small 
coin ; so the modern Swedish Ore is a coin worth less than a farthing, and the 
Norsk Ort (contracted from Orttog, Ortug, ^Ertog, or Ertog) is the fifth part of a 
specie dollar (Cleasby). Upon the ancient money of" Iceland the reader will con- 
sult Dr Dasent's Burnt Njal, ii. 397. 


New Coin (Crowns). Old Icel. English Equivalent. 

20 Krona peningur (20 J ::, |io o £12 3 

crown-piece) ) 

10 ,, =500 11 14 

In travelling tlirough the island it is advisable to carry a few 
dollars (specie), many half-dollars, and an abundance of marks 
and half-marks, with smaller pieces useful to pay minor charges. 
And it is useless to burden one's self with a huge bag on board 
ship : silver can generally be bought at Eeykjavik, with a loss 
of some five per cent. The Danish bank-notes with Icelandic 
words on the back are to be avoided, as the peasants distrust 
an article which a wetting may reduce to a rag. In Denmark 
there are $5 notes (grey paper, with blue border) ; $10 (yellow 
paper, with brown border) ; $20 (light-green) ; $50 (brown paper, 
with straight lines in the ground) ; and $100 (light-brown paper, 
\vith wavy lines). For Iceland there are no bank-notes, but when 
Paraguay manages to raise a loan, she need not despair of civilis- 
ing her currency. 

In July 1810, according to Mackenzie, the war had made the 
English sovereign worth 15 paper rixdollars on 'Change; and 
in 1812 it further rose to $25 paper. The rixdoUar at par was 
then worth four shillings English ; as has been seen, like all the 
smaller coins, it has fallen to a little more than half. In 1872 
the metallic value of the English sovereign in Denmark was = 
$8, 5m. Osk. ; but at Copenhagen it was readily exchanged for $9 
to $9, Om. 4sk. The pound sterling in English silver was worth 
only $8, Im. llsk. At Reykjavik the merchants will not hesitate 
to offer $8, 4m. Osk., and some will even attempt $8, 2m. Osk. The 
author was once assured by one of the principal tradesmen that 
the Exchange at Copenhagen was $8, 5m. Osk ; but on consulting 
the newspaper it was found that this was the price of bills. 
Thus money-changing becomes a profitable business, realising 
from five to ten per cent., and strangers will call upon the 
traveller with the object of " turning " a quasi-honest penny. 
Yet the simplest way is to take from England sovereigns and 
ten -pound notes. The foreigner can hardly expect to have 

^ In 1872 it was not a legal tender. 


a cheque honoured after what has lately happened. The last 
blow to the English traveller's credit was dealt in October 1871, 
when two yachtsmen " did a little bill " with Hr Thomsen, con- 
verted their dollars into sovereigns, and went their way. The 
names of the delinquents are well known, but that is no reason 
for quoting them. 

Weights and measures in Iceland are simply Danish : 

3 Kvints = 1 Lod^ (half-ounce avoird.). 

32 Lods = 1 Fund (= 1 lb. 1 oz."84 grs.). 

16 Funds = 1 Lispund ^ (roughly our stone). 

Sometimes the Norwegian weights are used, viz. : 

2 Lods = 1 Unze. 

8 Unzes = 1 Mark. 

2 Marks = 1 Skaalpund (10 per cent, more than the English pound 

12 Skaalpunds = 1 Bismerpund. 

3 Bismerpunds = 1 Vog (36 lbs.). 
16 Skaalpunds = 1 Lispund. 

100 Skaalpunds =: 1 Centner (the hundredweight of Germany, Austria, etc.). 
20 Lispunds = 1 Skippund (320 lbs.). 

Of the length measures : 

12 Danish inches = 1 Foot (= Eng. meas. 12 '356 in. or about 67 : 69 ft.). 
2 Feet = 1 Ell (Alen). 

24 000 Ft \^ MUe ^ (or 4 = 1° = 44 English statute miles in 

( round numbers). 

The Norsk measures are the same, but the foot is = 1*029 
English, and the mile is of 36,960 feet (= 13,320 English yards 
= 7|- English statute miles). The only Icelandic measure of 
length is the Thingmanna-leiS, or journey of the Thingman, 
about twenty English statute miles. 

The Danish Pot is =: 0'300 gallons; the Kanne is about three 
quarts, and the barrel of oil contains between twenty-five and 
twenty-six English gallons. 

^ The German Loth and the corrupted Italian Lotto. 

2 Uno Von Troil (1770) makes the Lispund = 20 lbs. English, and adds the 
Vaett = 5 Lispunds, and the Kapal 12 to 15 Lispunds. Both Lispund and 
Bismer are now falling out of use in Iceland, where only the Danish pound is 
preserved. She should follow the example of Austria, and introduce the metrical 

^ The Danish mile is the long league ; 15 being = 1° of latitude. 

a summer in iceland. 219 

§ 3. Communication and Commerce. 

Export trade began in Iceland from the date of its official 
colonisation. Long before the li^orman Conquest, the Norwegian 
kings and jarls trafficked with the island. Snorri Sturluson 
mentions that King Olaf Haraldsson (Helgi, or the Holy) made 
much profit by his transactions with Hallur Thorarinsson of 
Haukdal ; and an edict of King Magnus Erhngsson (a.d. 1174) 
alludes to the annual cargoes of flour and otlier merchandise sent 
by the Archbishop of Mdaros. Already in the thirteenth cen- 
tury we find Iceland in commercial relations with England, and 
a little later with Germany. This " free trade," which was on 
a considerable scale, presently fell before protection, and it did 
not recover itself till about the middle of the present century. 

In a historical sketch of the island trade, published in 1772, 
an Icelandic author makes the following deductions : 

I. The native trade was most advantageous to the island. 
II. The Norwegian was honest. 

III. The British was matchless ; of every foreign trade it was the most complete 

and the most advantageous to the island. 

IV, The German trade was unjust ; it was, however, more tolerable than the 
V. Danish trade, which took its place. 

The union of Calmar (a.d. 1397) made it a royal monopoly, 
carried on only in vessels belonging to, or licensed by, the Crown. 
This system lasted till a.d. 1776, and, practically closing the 
country to all but a few privileged Danes, it was injurious as 
unjust. The island was thus threatened with the fate of Green- 
land, whose utter desolation probably resulted from want of 
home-supplies rather than from Eskimo attacks. English mer- 
chants were the principal interlopers, receiving fish in barter for 
meal and clothes : and in a.d. 1413 one of the first acts of 
Henry V. was to send five ships to Iceland with letters proposing 
that the harbours be opened to British hulls. 

In A.D. 1602, and again in 1609, Christian IV. prohibited 
intercourse with the Hanse Towns, the powerful confederacy 
which had taken the commerce from the hands of the Nor- 
wegians and Danes ; and in 1620 he bestowed it upon the guilds 
of Copenhagen, Malmoe, and other ports. They established the 


first Iceland company, which lasted from a.d. 1620 to 1662. 
The concession was granted on condition of its paying a small 
sum for the use of each haven, $2 to the governor for every 
ship that broke bulk, and contributing to the royal magazines in 
the Yestmannaeyjar. But when the great piratical irruptions 
in A.D. 1627 to 1630 proved them unable to provide for, and to 
protect, the island, as they had undertaken to do, the resent- 
ment of the Crown caused the shares of $1000 each to sink to 
half-price and eventually they fell to nothing. 

After A.D, 1662 the trade of each haven was sold to the 
highest bidder once in every six years. In A.D. 1734 arose the 
second Iceland company, which paid an annual sum of $6000 
to the Crown, and sent twenty-four to thirty ships, frequenting 
twenty- two havens. This monopoly again was a great griev- 
ance ; it was injured by smugglers and interlopers, and, by its 
working, the island fell to its lowest condition. In a.d. 1776 
arose the third Iceland company, nominally headed by the 
Crown, which directed a fund of $4,000,000, provided by the 
country. At the end of ten years, when the ships and stock 
were sold, the loss proved to be $600,000; the residue was 
placed under commissioners, and the latter had the power of 
lending money to those who embarked in the trade at the rate 
of 4 per cent. ; 1 per cent, being then the legal limit. In A.D. 
1787 the commerce, averaging $45,000 per annum, was exempted 
from all imposts for a period of twenty years, afterwards pro- 
longed for five (a.d. 1812). As has been said, during the Danish 
war with Great Britain, a humane order in Council (1810) saved 
the island from absolute starvation. At length, after 250 years 
of a grinding monopoly, not, however, confined to Denmark, Ice- 
land was finally reopened to free trade by the law which came 
into action in April 1854. At present there are no restrictions 
beyond taking out a licence or maritime passport at a cost of 
two shillings and threepence per ton of the ship's burden. 
There are, or rather till 1872 there were, no duties on merchan- 
dise outwards or inwards, and foreigners now enjoy the same 
rights of trade, residence, and holding property as the natives. 

After April 1854 the imports rose within ten years to a 
million and a haK of rixdoUars. Yet something remains to be 


done in facilitating trade, and especially in the matter of com- 
munication, seven mails a year being now utterly inadequate to 
local requirements. 

Sea-passes are usually taken out by foreign ships from Copen- 
hagen, after submitting to medical examination if not provided 
with clean bill of health, and paying all the legal shipping dues 
before bulk can be broken, otherwise they must be bought at 
one of the six following places :'^ 

1. Eeykjavik, in the south-west. 

2. Vestmannaeyjar, south. 

3. Stykkisholm, west. 

4. fsafjortJ, north-west. 

5. EyjafjorS (Akureyri), north. 

6. EskifjorS, east. 

Thus the " Queen " steamer, sent in 1872 for ponies to BerufjorS, 
could not land cargo without going to EskifjorcJ, and returning 
to her destination — a useless or rather an injurious restriction. 
She had to pay the Sysluma^r $1 per ton register, for trans- 
mission to the Danish treasury. This compensation for admit- 
ting goods duty-free, is a severe tax upon a small charter, and 
it would certainly be better and fairer to the merchant if the 
equivalent were levied upon the freight not upon the bottom. 
Where trade is so poor, every form of nursing should be attended 
to, and the minimum of protection is here the maximum of 

The whole system of Iceland trade, like that of Shetland and 
the Faeroes, is the " Trust " of the West African oil rivers, so 
troublesome to consuls and cruisers. The storekeeper must 
advance goods to the farmer, and the latter refunds him when 
he can, especially in June and July, September and October, 
when wool is pulled and wethers are killed. A few of the 
farmers have money at the merchants, who do not, however, 
pay interest; many are in debt, and the two classes hardly 
balance each other. Prices are generally high, but the prohibi- 
tion category is unknown. 

Formerly it was the practice to hold fairs or markets at the 

^ Formerly there were only four — viz., Nos. 1, 3, 5, and 6 — established by law 
of April 15, 1854, regulating the trade and navigation with Iceland. 


chief comptoirs "upon the coast ; ^ these " MarkatJr " lasted for 
a week or ten days in early July, a period known as Hondlunar- 
ti3 (Dan. Handelstid). The peasants came, often after a week 
or more of riding, with their goods carried in crates and pan- 
niers by pack-horses ; pitched their tents, and began the year's 
business, which was enlivened by not a little gross debauchery. 
The canniest of their canny calling, each party sent forward 
some noted " knowing hand " to find out which merchant gave 
the largest price, and all went to him en masse. Consequently 
the traders were obliged to defend themselves by a counter- 
union, all conforming to a certain tariff; and now, if one store 
pay a skilling less than any comptoir within reach, the purchaser 
will claim to be refunded. 

The fair system is becoming obsolete ; many merchants have 
opened new trading stations, and even the most secluded bays 
are visited by market - ships. These " Spekulants," however, 
are not allowed to visit the out-havens where there is no comp- 
toir — another scrap of protection to the storekeeper which calls 
for abolition. They are limited, reasonably enough, to four or 
five weeks of yearly trade at each place, but they may divide 
the time at several bays. Moreover, they must sell and buy 
only from the ships, and they cannot set up shops on shore. 

1 The following Danised names of the thirty-one privileged factories and trading 
places are given by Mr Vice-Consul Crowe (Eeport, 1865-66) : 

South Quadrant. 

1. Keykjavik (capital). 

2. Havnefjord. 

3. Keflavik, 

5. Vestmanns Islands. 

6. Papo. 

7. Landhussund. 

4. Orebakke. 

ISToRTH Quadrant. 

8. Oefjord (called "a town"). 

9. Skagerstrand. 

12. Husavik. 

13. Eamforhavn. 

10. Hofsos. 

14. Thorshavn. 

11. Seydafjord. 

15. Sandarok. 

East Quadrant. 

16. Yapnafjord. 

17. Seydisfjord. 

18. Eskifjord. 

19. Berufjord. 

"West Quadrant. 

20. Isafjord (called "a town "). 

21. Stykkisholm. 

22. Olafsvik. 

23. Bildenstad. 

26. Patriksfjord. 

27. Flatey (island). 

28. Eeykjafjord. 

29. Bordore. 

24. Bildal. 

25. Dyrefjord. 

30. Stradmfjord. 

31. Skeljavik. 


Eegular postal communication is perhaps the first want of the 
island; there is hardly any for the three and a half months 
between November 29 and February 15. A steamer would 
take very few passengers at such seasons, but a stout and ably 
handled schooner-rigged craft of 120 tons (minimum), with a 
crew of seven men, should find no difiiculty in carrying the 
mails. Yet the history of such attempts is not encouraging. 
The first postal packet, the " Solowen," went down, " man and 
mouse," off Snsefellsnes, a dead horse cast ashore giving notice 
of the calamity : about the same time another ship was lost with 
all on board. The first steamer was the " old Arcturus," Clyde- 
built, 280 tons register, and eighty horse-power; the captain 
(Andresen) and crew were Danes, and the engineers were Scotch. 
Messrs Henderson of Glasgow, who hazarded the speculation, 
obtained from Denmark a subvention of $6000 per annum for 
six years, besides an advance of S30,000 purchase money, at 4 
per cent, interest for outlay. This " cockle-shell " made four, 
then six, annual voyages, the first in March, the last in October ; 
and she touched at Grangemouth when outward and homeward 
bound. Her charges were cheap — £2, 2s. for eight days, board, 
wine, and whiskey included. She is now, they say, trading for 
the United Steam Company between Copenhagen and the Baltic. 

But private companies, though receiving a grant of $15,000 
per annum, did not thrive. The " Arcturus " was succeeded by 
the Danish " Post-skip " " Diana," which was put upon the line in 
1870. She is a converted man-of-war, formerly stationed at the 
island, with flush decks for guns. A " slow coach " and a fast 
roller, she formerly made five trips a year, now increased to 
seven; and the Appendix (No. I.) will give all necessary in- 
formation about her movements. She offers the advantage of 
touching at the Faeroes, and at BerufjorS, but it has been pro- 
posed to give up the latter station. On the other hand, she is 
exceedingly inexact, often lagging behind her time at Granton, 
and other places. During the season she is painfully crowded ; 
" a state-room may be had against payment for all the berths 
therein;" but unless the kind and hospitable Mr Berry,i Consul- 

1 This gentleman is most obliging in giving aU information about the steamer. 
No passport is required for Iceland. 

1 13 





224 ULTIMA thule; or, 

General for Denmark at Leith, or the civil Vice-Consul, Hr 
Jacobsen, telegraph to Copenhagen, none will be vacant. The 
food is greasy, and soaked in fat. As long as Captain Haalme 
and Lieutenant Loitved commanded the " Diana," there was little 
official interference with passengers. Afterwards she fell into 
the hands of a martinet, and matters changed for the worse. 
She seems cheap, but she is really dear, as these figures show : 

First-class cabin from Granton to Iceland, . £4 

Table, without wines (at 3s. 9(1. per day), 
"Wines, etc., ..... 
Baggage, only 100 lbs. free ; overweight (say 100 

lbs.), at 9d. per 10 lbs.. 
Fees, etc., ..... 

£7 9 9 

She does not pay, and no wonder, when the Eeykjavik traders 
sail their own ships. But these gentry have also determined so 
to monopolise the trafi&c, that often the smallest parcel, even of 
medium size, is refused, under the pretext of there being no 
room. In fact, they have made the " Diana " peculiarly unpopular. 
" It is difficult," says a friend, " to find any reason for such con- 
duct, but that the Copenhagen merchants who furnish the stores 
of Eeykjavik with their poisonous liquors, which they pass off 
for genuine, take every means to prevent anything like com- 

In 1872, when the author visited Iceland, the export of ponies, 
sheep, and meat cattle had caused a rapid development of com- 
munication. Already the " Yarrow " of Granton had been run for 
three years by her owner Mr Slimon, who had bought and floated 
her after she had been wrecked off Burntisland. She at first re- 
fused, but afterwards consented, to carry mails. With as many 
as 450 head of horses on board, and towing a sloop with fifty 
more, she was terribly down in the stern; and a pooping sea 
would have been no joke for her solitary passenger. The " Jon 
SigurSsson " was also sent in May by her owners, a private Nor- 
wegian company, and she was followed by the " Queen." Con- 
cerning these two, ample details will be found in the Journal. 


§ 4. The Store. 

The present is an age of " manufactures and diffused wealth," 
which calls for as many observations on trade and business as 
the traveller can make. Before visiting the stores, however, a 
few words must be bestowed upon an interesting detail. 

Foreigners are apt to complain that Icelanders are uncom- 
monly " sharp practitioners ;" sleuth-hounds after money, and 
bull-dogs in holding it, like Yorkshiremen. It has become the 
fashion to say that the islanders are kind and hospitable at first, 
but succeed in jewing the stranger at last; and, like most of such 
generalisations, it contains a partial truth. Upon this subject 
an Englishman who knows the island well, wrote, " So far as my 
experience goes, I have never met with an Icelander who was a 
rascal; there are, however, men in Iceland, and especially at 
Eeykjavik, who are pretty specimens of that form of animal life, 
. . . I have heard some travellers regard it as a swindle that 
horses are dear when wanted to purchase, and cheap when 
sold ; but they forget that in early summer there is plenty of 
work for beasts, and the demand raises their price by the natural 
law. At the approach of winter there is no work for them and 
scanty food, consequently the value falls." 

The traveller, as a rule, will meet but little imposition, except 

in two notorious cases, alluded to in many a page. One is the 

rapacious Eev. Mr Bech, now Profastur (archdeacon) of Thing- 

vellir, who charged Prince Napoleon 220 francs for camping 

ground, and who is said to have demanded |47 from Lord 

Dufferin. The other is P^tur Jonsson, the farmer at My-vatn, 

who has fleeced generations of tourists ; he was made by nature 

to keep an inn at Palermo, or lodgings at Dover. Against 

these and a few other instances, may be set off' many a small 

farmer who will declare that he has been paid too much ; and 

often the boatman seems surprised at being paid at all. The 

people appear eminently honest in the country parts. About 

the capital this can hardly be expected : a revolver and a silver 

snuff-box if dropped will not be recovered. 

In business the foreigner will fall into the hands of the Danish 
VOL. I. p 


storekeepers, who certainly have more than a " theoretical know- 
ledge of the value of money ;" and he will be fortunate if he 
escape unscathed. One of these gentry, attempting to extort 500 
francs from the Capitaine Le Timbre for throwing a seine, with- 
out taking a fish, into an unpreserved part of his river, failed, 
as he deserved. The bad example has to a certain extent in- 
fected the Iceland trader. Messrs Henderson & Anderson were 
ruined by their agent. An English storekeeper came out in 
1872, with the object of recovering certain debts from the pre- 
sent owner of the " Glasgow House." He had spent some years 
on the island, he knew Danish well, and he was accustomed to 
treat with the people ; yet he wholly failed, and the worst part 
of his failure was, that no Procurator (lawyer) would undertake 
the foreigner's case against a brother islander.^ But if these 
two were disappointed, Messrs Eitchie and Messrs Hogarth have 
been successful. And many of our countrymen who land in 
Iceland for trade should certainly not throw stones at the 
islanders. One of these clerks, a decidedly "sharp" young 
man, not to use the comparative form of the adjective, attempted 
to make himself richer and the author poorer by £25, on the 
pretext that he had bought ponies, for which the hirer should 
be responsible. 

The storekeepers at Eeykjavik are called merchants (kaup- 
ma5r = chapman), and their establishments, which lack signs and 
names, are the conspicuous buildings fronting the sea. Mostly, 
they are paid employes of Copenhagen firms, who receive fixed 
salaries. The following is a list, beginning from the west : 

1. Hr Egill Egilsson (Icelander), of the Glasgow House, and 
agent of the " Jon SigurSsson " steamer. 

2. Hr Fischer, a Dane, married to an Icelandic wife, settled at 

1 Upon these remarks Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin observes, "The case referred to is 
as follows : The Scotchman's claim may have been good in point of Scotch law, 
but it was not in point of Icelandic law. That is the reason why the Procurators 
would not undertake it. He has therefore to blame the law, not the men. I 
know, as a fact, that both the Procurators of Reykjavik have conducted cases for 
foreigners, e.g., Messrs Henderson & Anderson against Icelanders. It would 
have been more questionable practice, although perhaps more lawyer-like, if they 
had induced the plaintiff to go on with the case, although they were sure that he 
would lose it. Foreigners often think they are wronged if a case, which is clear 
according to their own laws, breaks down according to foreign laws : Icelanders 
have gone through that experience in Scotland. " 


Copenhagen, and occasionally visiting the island. He occupies 
the corner tenement to the right of the Bridge House ; and he 
has large stores fronting his shop. 

3. Hr Havstein (Dane), who has not long been established ; 
his private dwelling is attached to his store at the west end of 
Harbour Street, but he usually lives at Copenhagen. This house 
charters two or three ships a year to carry its goods. 

4. Hr Hannes Jonsson, an Icelander, son of the former Bishop 
Steingrimur Jonsson. His stock is furnished by Hr Jonsen of 
Copenhagen, who has also establishments at HafnafjorS, Papos, 
and SeySisfjorS. 

5. Hr Kobb, the son of an English merchant, who settled at 
and was naturalised in Iceland.^ He speaks German, but not a 
word of English. It is the smallest of all the establishments, 
and seems to do business only in lollipops. 

6. Hr P. C. Knutzen, a Dane, whose agent is Hr Sivertsen. 
He trades on his own account, without a company ; and, being 
young and wealthy, he prefers Copenhagen to Eeykjavik. At 
HafnafjorS he has another establishment, and an agent (Hr 

7. Hr MoUer. The Club is held at his house. 

8. Hr Schmidt (Danish), who hires a house at Eeykjavik, and 
passes the winter at Copenhagen. He is Consul for Holland. 

9. Hr Th. A. Thomsen, a Dane of Flensburg, born in Iceland. 
He passes the winter at Copenhagen ; and, besides being one of 
the principal traders, he is well-known for his civility and kind- 
ness to strangers. 

10. Hr Edward Siemsen, at the east end of the town. He is 
agent for his brother and their nephew, and he also acts Consul 
for Denmark. 

Including M. Eandrtip, Consul de Erance, the Consular Corps, 
none of them belonging to la carriere, consists of three, England, 
of course, being unrepresented, though she does the largest busi- 
ness in coal and salt. Thus the tricolor is the only foreign flag 
seen in the island, the other two staves bear Danish colours. As 
has been shown, most of the traders pass only the summer in 

Naturalisation is wisely made easy in Iceland. The foreigner swears allegi- 
ance, pays $2, and straightway becomes a citizen. 


Iceland, and they solace themselves with frequent rides and pic- 
nics at the Laxa Eiver. 

Kerguelen has left us an excellent description of the Iceland 
trade in a.d. 1767. It was managed by a Danish company (No. 
2, before alluded to), which had bought an exclusive privilege 
from the king, and which kept factors and warehouses at the 
several stations. The only money was fish and butter,^ whilst 
one ell of pig-tail (tobacco) = one fish. The fisheries were very 
extensive, and w^ould require four frigates thoroughly to protect 
them. Exports were included under salt meat, beef, and mutton ; 
tallow ; butter, close packed ; wool in the grease ; skins of sheep, 
foxes, and seals ; feathers, especially eider down ; oil of whales, 
sharks, and seals ; fine and coarse jackets of Wadmal, woollen 
stockings, and mitts ; stock-fish and sulphur. The imports were 
fishing-tackle, horse-shoes, carpenters' woods, coffee and sugar, 
tobacco and snuff, beer, brandy, and wine, dry goods (calicoes, 
etc.), flour (wheat and rye), bread and biscuit. 

The imports of the present day, to mention only those of chief 
importance, are timber, salt, coals, grain, coffee, spices, tobacco, 
and liquor. The timber consists of pine and fir, mostly the 
latter; the forms are beams for roofing and framing, twenty- 
two to twenty -four feet long, one -inch boards for side-lining 
of houses, three-inch planks, and finer woods for the joiner. 
Salt comes chiefly from Liverpool, which is ousting the Spanish 
trade, and the average price may be $2 per barrel =176 pots = 
44 gallons. The people declare that they cannot aflbrd the 
expense of salt-pans, and that the sun is hardly hot enough for 
evaporation : this was not the case a few years ago, but Iceland, 
like Africa, finds it cheaper to import the condiment. English 
coals are carried in British bottoms, either direct or via Copen- 
hagen ; from the latter only small quantities come ; birch wood, 
sawn and split for fuel, is introduced for private use, not for the 
general market ; and there is no charcoal at Eeykjavik, although 
birch " braise " is found inland. The cereals, whose consumption 
ranges from twenty-four to thirty bushels a head, are wheat and 
rye, in grain, flour, and biscuit ; baking-ovens are found only at 

^ In tlie secluded parts of the island fish and butter still form a currency of 
exceedingly variable value. 


the capital. The rice is more often cheap " Eangoon," than fine 
"Carolina;" the people, who are fond of rice-milk, do not 
appear to know the difference, and the import quintupled 
between 1864-70. The spices are chiefly cinnamon, generally- 
mixed with black pepper; pepper,^ cloves, and nutmegs. Coffee,^ 
whose consumption is 6 "7 pounds per head, is chiefly the 
Brazilian growth ; tea is very rare, and a little chocolate is 
brought from Copenhagen. In hard times, for instance after 
1855, the consumption of these luxuries notably falls off. The 
tobaccos are usually the common Danish article ; foreign growths 
are represented by twist, for chewing as well as smoking ; by 
shag, bird's-eye, and some specimens of the thousand mixtures 
which have become so popular of late. As may be expected, 
the cigars are dear and bad; the best, or at least the most 
expensive, are the Hamburg " Havannahs," which are preten- 
tiously wrapped up in a plaintain-leaf, veritable "cabbage." 
Perhaps the favourite form is snuff (= about $3 per pound), 
which is loved by males of all classes and ages. There are few 
men who "take nothing between their fingers ;" the consumption 
of this Tupi article is about two pounds per head of males.^ 

The list of wet goods in a general store is extensive, including 
port and sherry, claret and champagne, rum and cognac, with 
liqueurs like cherry-brandy. These are mostly dear and bad ; 
the beer imported for tavern use, and the Brennivin, Korn- 
schnapps, or rye-spirits, are too cheap to be adulterated, except 
for the peasantry. Not a few country merchants can sell per 
annum of this liquor twenty barrels, each containing thirty 
gallons. The Althing imposed an import tax, to come into 
force on July 1, 1872, of $0, Om. 8sk. (about 2|d.) per pot or quart, 
upon every bottle of wine and spirits, beer only being excepted.* 

1 No Cayenne is procurable, and those who ask for it will probably be served 
with curry powder in bottles, that do not suffice for a single dish, but cost one 

2 Coifee did not come into general use before the end of the eighteenth century ; 
tea and tobacco are mentioned in the satirical poem, " Thagnarmal," 1728, by 
Eggert Olafsson, who died in 1768 (Cleasby). 

^ The Consular Report says, "1 lb. per annum for every man, woman, and 

* The Report has it that the duty of eight skillings per pot or quart has been 
laid upon ale, wine, and spirituous liquors, when imported in casks or hogsheads, 



But the law unliappily said "drinkable spirits," and the mer- 
chants were able to exempt pure and methylated alcohols from the 
impost. Consequently " brandies " were made at Eeykjavik and 
at other trading stations, greatly to the detriment of public 
health as well as of morality, and despite the exertions of sensible 
men like Dr Hjaltalin, the " Land-physicus." The duty upon 
twenty barrels would be $200; it is paid into the Treasury 
under the charge of the Landfogeti, superintended by the 
StiftamtmaSr. The sooner an " Adulterations Act " is passed the 
better, but in Iceland as elsewhere magna esipecunia et prevalehit. 
The island is not cursed with a Manchester school and its moral 
mildew, but commercial interests are amply sufficient for more 
than self-protection. 

It may be useful to compare the prices in 1810 by Stephensen 
(History of Iceland), with those of 1872, on the western and 
eastern coasts : 

In 1810. 

In 1872. 

On East Coast. 

1 pair trade mitts, . . . 

$0 4—6 




14 20 

1 pair stockings, .... 

$0 12—18 





1 pair fine socks, . . . 

$0 64 to $1 



1 common Wadmal jacket. 

$0 40 60 

$3 to $4 ] 

none maae lor 


1 fine Wadmal jacket, . . 

$2 to $3 



1 lb. (Dan.) wool, . . 

$0 12—20 


3 4 


2 to $0 4 

1 lb. eider down, . . . 

$2 3 to |3 




1 lb. feathers, .... 

$0 17—20 





1 lb. tallow, 

$0 16—22 


1 4 



1 lb. butter,! . . . . . 

|0 10—28 





1 Skippund(3201bs.) "flat 

I $12 to $20 



1 Skippund klip-fish, ^ . . 

$15 to $30 

$30 to $40 


and a duty of equal amount per one and a half pint, when imported in bottles, 
jars, or kegs. 

! Iceland home-made butter is poor, white, full of hairs, and made in a 
way peculiarly unclean. It is mostly of ewes' milk, that of the cow not 
sufficing. Travellers of course prefer the imported, but it is not always to be 
had at the shops. The favourite native form is " sour butter," which, like the 
Ghi of Hindostan, lasts twenty years, though if salted it becomes rancid : it 
takes the place of salt and seasoning ; it is considered to assist digestion, and it 
*'diff'uses an agreeable warmth over the stomach." The climate demands such 
carbon-producing food, and "Fat have I never refused!" is a saying with the 

^ Flat fish, not being flat, is a misnomer for the sun-dried preparation which is 
unknown abroad, and unfit for European markets. 

^ This salt fish on the eastern coast is chiefly for home use, the catch being too 
late for curing, and dry weather being mostly wanting at that season. 



4 6 

In 1810. In 1872. 

1 barrel sharks' liver oil, . $12 to $20 $30 
1 skin, white or Arctic fox ) 

{C. lagopus), . . . . ) 
1 skin, blue {i.e., deep iron 

grey) fox, 

1 brown (C. fuUginosus), .$500 $8 j 

1 Rein-deer skin,i ... $5 $530 

100 Swan-quills, .... $2 to $3 $800 

A horse, $6 to $40 according to demand, 

A cow, $16 to $24 $50 to $80 

Awether,2 $2 to $5 $9 

1 ewe and lamb, .... $2 to $2^ $12 

A lamb. 


On East Coast. 

none on East 

very rare. 
£3 to £10 
and upwards. 
not for sale. 

Details of imports for 1865, occupying nearly a page and 
a half, will be found in the Consular Eeport of that year;, the 
total importations represented £21,468. The kind, weight, 
and value of the primary items are thus tabled in 1870-71 : 
the account applies to the whole island, but only the principal 
articles are mentioned : 


Rye and rye-flour, \ 
barrels, . . . j 







Value in 









Barley, .... 








Pease, .... 








Wheaten bread, lbs. , 








Rye bread, lbs. . 








Spirits, quarts, . 








Coffee, lbs., . . 








Chicory, lbs., . . 








Sugar candy, lbs.. 








Loaf sugar, lbs., . 








Brown sugar, lbs.. 








Treacle, lbs., . . 








Rice, lbs., . . . 








SnuflF, lbs., . . . 








Leaf tobacco, lbs., 








Chew tobacco, lbs.. 








Tobacco, lbs., . . 








Cigars (pieces), . 








The peculiarity of this table is that while the consumption of 

^ Only two pelts were sent in 1872. 

2 The merchant weighs the carcase when cold, melts the tallow, and pays a 
price varying according to the market, from fourteen skillings to a mark. The 
people have a strange idea that sheep falling into snow crevasses, and found a 
year or two afterwards, are naturally salted — a curious appendage to the *' freezing 
upwards " theory. 


colonial goods remains at the usual average, and while rice has 
nearly quintupled, there has been a decrease in the import of rye, 
barley, pease, and wheaten bread, a circumstance not easy to 
account for, with a growing population in an island which pro- 
duces no cereals. 

The collective value of these imports is somewhat over 
$1,100,000 = £122,222, which is but $100,000 less than the 
total value of the exports of 1869 ($1,200,000 = £133,333); 
and, as only the most important items have been mentioned,^ 
we may conclude that the two totals almost balance each other. 
The consumption of brandy, coffee, sugar, and tobacco is alone 
equal to about $418,000, or one-third of the whole value of the 

In 1869, the number of foreign vessels that visited the trading 
stations was 

From Denmark direct, 99 vessels, with 9,358 tons. 

,, other countries, 60 ,, 4,555 ,, 

,, other island stations, 137 ,, 13,913 ,, 

Of the 149 direct foreign arrivals 

Cleared in to Eeykjavik, 31 '1 per cent. 
,, Akureyri, 9 '3 ,, 

„ SeySisfjorS, 9*3 

,, Isafjor'S, 8*2 ,, 

,, BerufjorS, 6*4 ,, 

,, Hafnarfjor?y, 51*0 ,, 

We will now enter the establishment, and see the stock-in- 
trade of a general " merchant." The usual dwarf entrance-hall, 
after the outer door is passed, opens upon two rooms to the right 
and left : one is the public shop, filled at the " fair season " with 

^ The other imports not accounted for are alum, drugs, ashes, ink, brushmakers' 
work, cocoa, chocolate, ale in bottle and in cask (the latter, 11,776 lbs. in 1865), 
wine in bottle and cask {the latter, 23,137 lbs.), vinegar, essences, catechu and 
galls, indigo, dyestuffs and varnish, playing-cards, " galanterie wares," glass 
ware, resin and gums, caps, stone china, pork and hams (2,480 lbs.), meat 
(2,279 lbs.), cork, buckwheat meal (880 lbs.), oatmeal (319 lbs.), spices (1,016 
lbs.), coals (157 tons), cotton goods (62,484 lbs.), silk (11 lbs.), woollen goods 
(686 lbs.), block metal (786 lbs.), bar and hoop iron (63,486 lbs.), nails (23,441 
lbs.), iron chain (404 lbs.), iron wares (33,770 lbs.), zinc in plates, hardware 
sundries (6,981 lbs.), cheese (1,736 lbs.), paper (6,210 lbs.), soap (12,225 lbs.), 
sago, etc. (811 lbs.), saltpetre (297 lbs.), prepared hides, and skins (4,508 lbs.), 
acids (309 lbs.), tea (918 lbs.), ropemakers' work (22,770 lbs.), wood goods 
(14,294 cubic feet), worked woods (42,993 lbs.), vitriol (4,519 lbs.), and bar steel 
(1,441 lbs.). 


jostling boors and drunken loafers ; the other is the private store, 
mostly provided with railed pen for the benefit of the clerk and 
account-keeper. Besides the mainstays of commerce before 
mentioned, the rooms will contain the following articles : Dry 
goods, broad cloths and long cloths, woollen comforters, threads, 
and a few silks and satins. Hardwares of every description; 
iron for the blacksmith's use ; hoop-iron and bar-iron (no pig), 
the metal being preferably Swedish, for the best of reasons ; a 
little steel and brass wire, but neither copper nor zinc ; farriers' 
and carpenters' tools; cooking utensils ; spades and scythes; sewing 
machines; and fish-hooks, the smaller sort for long lines, the 
cod-hooks large and of tinned iron. The arms and ammunition, 
especially old military muskets and muzzle-loaders, are fit only 
for the Gold Coast : Copenhagen weapons are cheap and good, 
£2, 5s. being the average price of a breech-loading single- 
barrelled rifle. Pistols are not seen, and there is a tradition of 
the barrels being cut for alpenstock rings. Besides cereals, the 
stores supply sugars, brown, candy, and white, refined at Copen- 
hagen; hams (rare, and no potted meats, so much wanted by 
travellers) ; sausages and sardines ; butter (foreign sometimes) ; 
figs, raisins, prunes, and olive oil. The Quincaillerie consists of 
pots and pans, boxes, funnels, kettles and watering-pots, lamps 
and lanterns. The walls are hung with leather for saddles, thongs, 
straps, and raw hides for shoes. There is an abundance of cheap 
crockery and glass ware. Paraffin and petroleum have lately 
come into general fashion ; stearine candles are kept mostly for 
private use, and the peasants make their own farthing dips. 

A narrow back passage, often connecting the public and the 
private shop, will have a ladder leading to the usual cock-loft, 
scattered with boxes and bales. Here a few skins and birds 
stuffed for sale, some of them sadly damaged by rats, hang from 
the beams ; and the following are the chief items : 

The falcon^ {F, islandicus, Icel. Falki, a foreign word, or VeiSi- 
fd,lki) ; a good white, stuffed specimen costs $10. This bird, so 
much valued during the Middle Ages, and considered the elder 

^ Here and there an eagle skin may be bought ; and in country parts the quills 
of the royal bird are used as pens. The only species is the white-tailed Haliaetus 
{H. alhicilla or F. leucocejphalus). 


brother of the gerfalcon {F. gyrfalco) or peregrine, was protected 
by kings and bishops, who claimed the right of exporting it. A 
royal mews was established at Eeykjavik. In 1770, the falconers 
paid $7 for the grey bird, $10 for the dark-grey, and $15 for the 
white, which was considered the most beautiful and docile. 
Many were sent to England as late as the seventeenth century : 
in 1871, a few birds were bought for the Hindostan market. 
This falcon is very destructive to ducks, and ranges far, making 
upwards of 1300 miles per diem. 

Whoopers, hoopers, or wild swans {Cycnus ferns, Icel. Alpt 
or Svanr in poetry, the Faer. Svener), are now, from the rarity of 
the skins, sold at fancy prices. 

The Iceland golden-eye {Clangula islandica, Icel. Hiisond) 
fetches, according to quality, $0, 5m. to $1, 2m. 

The gulls (Z. glaucus, Icel. Hvit-mafur or Hvit-fugl) and the 
great black-backed L. marinus (Svartbakur) are cheap, and good 
specimens may be bought for $0, 2m. 

The great northern diver (Colymbus arcticus sen glacialis, Icel. 
Himbrimi or Briisi), if good, costs $1, 4m. ; usually it is sold when 
the coat is changing from winter to summer wear, and is not 
worth buying. 

The red-throated diver {Colywibus ruficollinus sen septentrion- 
alis, Icel. Lomr or Therrikraka) is worth $1, 2m. when in good 
condition, with red around the throat and about the breast. 

The other skins are the whimbrel or curlew-knot {Nitmenius 
pJiaeopus, Faer. Spogvi, Icel. ISTefvoginn-Spoi) ; the pretty red- 
headed pochard {Fioligula ferina), extending from the Himalayas 
to E'orth America, from Italy to Greenland; the beautifully 
painted harlequin, or stone duck (Histrionicus torquatus seu 
Anas histrionica, Icel. Straum-ond or stream-duck) ; the white- 
breasted and crooked-bill'd goosander (Mergiis castor, Icel. Stora- 
toppond or Gulond), so different of robe in male and female ; the 
red-breasted mergander (Mergus serrator, Icel. Lilla Toppond), 
whose brick-hued bill, ending in a white horny nail, has various 
serrations, according to sex ; the shag, scarf, or cormorant {Pha- 
lacrocorax carho, Carbo cormoranus or Pelicanus carho, Icel. 
Skarfur, Toppskarfur, and Dilaskarfur), never taught in Europe 
to fish ; the gannet (Sula hassana or Pelicanus hassanus, Icel. 


Siila or Hafsiila); the various* skuas or Arctic gulls {Stercorarius 
Icel. Kjoi) ; the Iceland gull (L. leucopterus, Icel. Hvit-mafur), 
white, with ash -blue back; the guillemot (Uria troile, Icel. 
Svartlag, Langnefia, or Langvia), whose flesh is eaten, and whose 
feathers sell for twenty-eight skillings per lb. ; the black guille- 
mot {Uria grylle, Icel. Tejsti) ; the grey-lag goose (Anser ferus) ; 
the scaup-duck {Fnligula marila); the black scoter (Oedemia 
nigra) ; the long-tail duck (Harelda glacialis) ; the pin-tail duck 
{A. acuta) ; the red-necked phalarope (Icel. Osin's-hani, Phala- 
Topus hyperboreus seu tringa borea) ; the gad wall (A. strepera) ; 
the wigeon (A. Penelope) ; the mallard (A. hoschas) ; the teal 
(A. crecca). 



§ 1. Catalogue. 

And first a few words concerning Icelandic literature. 

Iceland has been loudly proclaimed to be the " home of the 
Eddas," ^ which is emphatically not the case. The Elder or 
poetical Edda is distinctly Continental ; it abounds in un- 
insular ideas and similes: the sun-stag, the high-antler'd deer, the 

^ Mr Jon A. Hjaltalfn observes : " If by ' home ' is meant the place where the 
songs were first made, this is undoubtedly correct, according to accepted theories ; 
but then Norway would not then be their home any more than Iceland. On the 
other hand, it is indisputable that their last and only home was in Iceland, when 
they were nowhere else to be found. The allusions in the songs give no clue to 
their birthplace. You may find an Icelander of the present day singing of lions 
and elephants. And if they can do so now, why not in former times also?" The 
author would remark that the Elder Edda has evidently been preserved by 
memory from earlier ages, and that its origin must have been in Continental 
Scandinavia. It is rather the spirit of the poetry than the scattered allusions 
which suggests that much of it was not addressed to islanders. A comparison of 
the Voluspa with any Icelandic composition will explain what is here meant ; and 
Mr Benjamin Thorpe seems to have been struck by the same idea. 


wolf,i the strong- venom'd snake, the mew-field's bison or path 
of ship over the sea, the lily and the pine forest, are poetical 
imagery, wholly unfamiliar to the untravelled Icelander. 

The authentic historical literature of Scandinavia opens about 
the middle of the ninth century ; that of Iceland with its Nor- 
wegian discovery, when the copiously and irregularly inflected 
tongue, the " delight of philologists and the traveller's despair," 
was apparently in its highest form. The learned Bishop of Skal- 
holt (Hist. Eccl. Isl.) assigns four distinct ages to the classical 
productions of his native island : 

I. Infancy : from the first colonisation (a.d. 874), when every 
man appears to have been a Skald ^ or bard, ending with the 
introduction of Christianity in A.D. 1000. The Sturlunga (i. 107) 
asserts that all the Sagas of that date were committed to writing 
before the death of Bishop Brandr (a.d. 1201). 

II. Youth : when colleges and schools were introduced, end- 
ing with A.D, 1110. 

III. Manhood and zenith of splendour : from that time till 
A.D. 1350. 

IV. Decline and fall between the mid-fourteenth century and 
the Eeformation. 

Thus the Augustan age endured for the unusually long period 
of some two and a half centuries. 

The island, though scantily peopled, enjoyed immense advan- 
tages for study. It had taken the first great step in civilisation, 
SLAVERY, and while carl and thrall tilled the field, Jarl, clerk, 
and franklin found ample leisure for literature. The long 
rigorous winters, when neither farming, fishing, fighting, nor sea- 

^ We find an Ulf 's - vatn in ^ Iceland, but probably the name was given in 
memory of the old home, or as IJlfr was a proper name like Vuk in Slav, the first 
settler may have so christened it. 

2 Skaldr (Germ. Schalte) means a pole ; and inasmuch as the Scald - pole 
(Skald-stong or NI9-stong) was scored with charms and imprecations — as Martin 
Capella (fifth century) writes : 

" Barbara fraxineis sculpatur runa tabellis ; " — 

so *'pole" came to signify a libel. Hence Skald may be akin to the Germ. 
Schelten, and the familiar English " Scold." Afterwards it took the meaning of 
poetry in a good sense, and Skaldskapr (Skaldship) was applied to the form of 
verse, metre, flow, and diction (Cleasby). It is hardly necessary to observe that 
the word is of disputed origin, the five general derivations being Skalla (depilare), 
Skiael (wisdom = our "skill"), Skjall (narratic), Skal (sources), and Gala (to 
sing). " HirSskald " corresponds with our poet-laureate. 


faring was possible, proved highly favourable for reading, writ- 
ing, and reciting ; and hence the phenomenon that the history of 
mediaeval Iceland is more complete than that of any European 
country. The extensive piratical wanderings of the race gave, 
moreover, a cosmopolitan complexion to its compositions. Some 
modern writers wonder to see such display of literary activity, 
especially during the last fifty or sixty years of the Common- 
wealth, when society was convulsed by sanguinary feuds, and 
when every man slept weaponed. As we often find in history, 
it was this very turbulence which gave the spur; after the 
union with Norway, the island became peaceful, and her poets 
and historians found their occupation going or gone. The noble 
Icelandic prose, which in terse, picturesque, and crystal-clear 
expression, vied with Latin, and which equalled Greek in dis- 
tinctness and combination of words, was no longer written ; and 
between the fifteenth and the mid-sixteenth centuries men of 
letters contented themselves with transcribing and annotating 
their classics. 

The poetry of the Augustan age was, at first, simple and suf- 
ficient as the prose — it reminds us of Firdausi's Shah-nameh. 
But presently, as is ever the case with a decaying literature, 
came the Skald, whose highest merit was that of calling nothing 
by the right name, of saying common things in an uncommon 
or rather in an unintelligible way. Space forbids even an out- 
line of his system, the vast variety of quaint conceits, the abuse 
of metaphor, of " Kenningar " (circumlocution), of simile, and of 
allegory, and the prodigious complication of metres, which formed 
his stock-in-trade ; suffice it to say that he used 150 synonyms 
for an island, fifty for a wave,^ and a greater number for gold. 
Thus Eask remarks that with a half-a-hundred terms for a ship 
there is no word for "benevolence." The Skald's vocabulary 
added to the copiousness of Arabic, the polysynthesis of San- 
skrit ; his inversions and transpositions of speech are so compli- 
cated, that modern commentators after quoting the lines, mostly 
number the words or subjoin the construction. 

It is interesting to observe the family likeness between the 

1 Von Hammer counts 5744 Arabic terms for a camel. 

238 ULTIMA thule; or, 

two distant cousins, Persian and Icelandic. Haiiz, for instance, 
from Alif to Ya, is one long example of Skaldic poetry ; he sings 
the praises of wine when he means, or is understood to mean, 
heavenly love, and his verse, like that of Ultima Thule, requires 
for every line a dictionary — not of words, but of the double 
entendres which lurk under words. Grimm, when pronouncing 
Icelandic to he the " true source of all the Teutonic languages," 
cannot but remark its Oriental turn. It is in fact after the Slav, 
the purest type of the Indo-European, which has been so 
modestly called the " Indo-Germanic " family. 

The Eeformation stirred up the popular mind, and the result, 
as usual, was a revival of literary energy. But the produce — 
theology with poetry religious and ethical ; history, or rather 
continuations of the old annals ; criticism, exegesis, and gram- 
matical studies — showed decline in matter as well as in manner. 
The originality, the strong individuality of the old pagan, was 
succeeded by the mechanical industry of the copier, who had 
other models to work from. This modern period still continues. 
The love of letters, inspired by soil and climate, even now char- 
acterises the Icelander despite his poverty and isolation. During 
the last century abundant good work has been done in editing and 
publishing the classical literature, and some excursions have been 
made into the regions of science, mechanics, and political economy. 

The list given by Uno Von Troil contains the names of 120 
works; and the Eeports of the Icelandic Literary Society between 
1852 and 1871 show, besides its yearly transactions (Skirnir), 
the titles of fifty-one publications, some old but mostly modern. 
Bishop Petursson (Hist. Eccl. 330) gives a list of six folio pages, 
containing the titles of Libri Biblici, Catechetici, de Evangeliis, 
Precum, Condones, et alii piis usibus Libri. It is interesting, 
again, to compare this hyperborean literature with that of the 
little Istrian peninsula. The latter, despite such drawbacks 
as poverty and political excitement, and the torments of plagues, 
droughts, famines, invasions, and intestine strife, can point to 
a roll numbering about 3000 names :^ England herself is hardly 
richer in local literature. 

^ The total is 3060, but this would include the classics who have treated of 
I stria. 


Amongst the subjects which Icelandic has treated, we may 
number proverbs, the " marrow of the language." The first col- 
lection (OrSskviSasafn) was made by GuSmundur Jonsson, and 
printed in octavo by the Literary Society (Eeport of 1872). The 
Cleasby-Vigfusson Dictionary also contains a considerable number 
which deserve separate publication, for the benefit of those who 
appreciate this highly ethnological form of literature. Even the 
Faeroe Islands possess their repertoire (Description, etc., by the 
Eev. J. Lundt : London, Longmans, 1810), and some of them are 
naive in the extreme. For instance, " Calumny never dies," and 
" Seldom are pigeons hatched from a raven's Qgg" Some five 
years ago Mr Jon A. Hjaltalln translated into English a col- 
lection of Icelandic proverbs, adding to it those of the late Dr 
Scheving. His plan was: (1.) to give the text; (2.) a literal 
translation ; and (3.) a common translation, e.g. : 

Berr er hverr a baki nema bro'Sur eigi ; 
Bare is every on back unless brother have ; 
Bare is back where brother is not. 

Thus the Advocates' Library has the largest and the most com- 
plete collection of Icelandic proverbs ever made, whilst, mirahile 
dictu, it is in MS., being unable to find a publisher. 

Finally, the days are past since Sir Joseph Banks could 
collect the three hundred rare and valuable MSS. which were 
deposited in the British Museum. At present not a single article 
of literary worth is to be bought on the island.^ 

"We will now proceed to Icelandic travellers, and more espe- 
cially to the English travellers of the present century.^ 

1 Mr Lidderdale of the British Museum has lately catalogued its Icelandic 
books, and by another list of all those printed, shows what is wanted to perfect 
the national collection. The latter possesses some rare volumes which are not in 
the National Library of Copenhagen. 

2 The most noted of the old writers are the following: Arngrimr Jonsson 
published a variety of books on local subjects, Brevis Commentarius (1592), 
Anatome Blefkeniana (1612), Epistola Defensoria (1618), Apotribe Calumniae 
(1622), Chrymogpea (1609-1630), Specimen Islandise (1643). In 1607 appeared the 
"Islandia, etc." of Difmar Blefkens (Blefkenius). The author lived a year at 
"Haffnefiordt," and then passed on to Greenland. He greatly scandalised the 
islanders by making them purify their skins and strengthen their gums like the 
Celtiberi of Strabo and Catullus, and the coquettes of rural France. In 1608, 
lonr Boty printed his "Treatise of the Course from Iceland to Greenland" 
(Purchas, iii. 520). In 1644, La Peyrere wrote an "Account of Iceland" (Churchill, 
ii. 482), from which an extract has been made. In 1746, John Andersson, after- 


1. Mr (afterwards Sir) William Jackson Hooker, F.E.S., L.S., 
and F. Wern. Soc. Edin., produced his "Journal of a Tour in 
Iceland in the Summer of 1809," 2 vols. 8vo, London, Longmans 

wards Burgomaster of Hamburgh, there published his " Nachrichten von Island," 
which was translated into Danish and French. His statements were contra- 
dicted in 1750 by the Dane Niels Horrebow, "Tilforladeliga Efterretningar om 
Island med ett nytt Landkort, og 2 Aars Meteorologiska Observationer," also 
translated into German and English. 

The marking book of the last century was the "Introduction eL I'Histoire de 
Dannemark," par M. Mallet, k Copenh. 1755, 2 vols. 4to. It was reproduced in 
English and German. This pioneer of northern literature was born at Geneva, 
became French Professor at Copenhagen (1752), travelled in Norway and Sweden 
(1755), returned home and died (1762). The work is obsolete, but Mallet's 
"Northern Antiquities," edited by Bishop Percy, and supplemented by Mr I. A. 
Blackwell, would form a valuable item of Bohn's Library (London, 1859), were it 
provided with a decent index, and purged of the blemishes which now dishonour 
it. Imagine the effect of such a note as this (p. 42): "The Himalaya, or 
Heavenly mountains; the Sanskrit, himala, corresponding to the M. Gothic 
himins; Alem. himil. . . . Engl., heaven." 

In 1766-67, M. de Kerguelen Tremarec voyaged over the North Sea, and 
published in 1772 his "Relation d'un Voyage dans la Mer du Nord." In 1772, 
Uno Von Troil accompanied Sir J. Banks to Iceland, and wrote a most valuable 
series of twenty -five letters. They have been reproduced in many collections : 
the edition always referred to in these pages is the 4to of Eobson, London, 1780, 
kindly given to the author by Mr Bernhard Quaritch. Another important book 
is that of Eggert Olafsson and Biarni Pallsson (usually Danised to Olafsen and 
Povelsen), " Reise igienem Island, with Zoega's Botanical Observations," 2 vols., 
Soroe, 1772, 4to ; it was translated into German and into French, and a com- 
pendium of it, given in English, was largely quoted by Henderson. In 1772, 
Bishop Finn Jonsson (Finnus Johannseus), the learned author of the "Historia 
Ecclesiastica Islandise (vols. 3, Hafn., now very rare), treated of the "depopula- 
tion of Iceland by cold, volcanic eruptions, and famine. " GuSbrandus Thorla- 
cius. Bishop of Holar, also wrote a " Letter concerning the Ancient State of the 
Island." In 1789, Mr (afterwards Sir) John Stanley addressed two " Letters " to 
Dr Black, which were printed in the ' ' Transactions of the Royal Society of Edin- 

The various collections of "Voyages and Travels" contain many interesting 
notices of Iceland. The "Scoprimento dell' Isole Frislanda, Eslanda, Engroen- 
landa, Estotilanda, and Icarea, fatto per due fratelli, M. Nicolo il Caualiere et 
M. Antonio, Libro Vno, col disegno di dette Isole," appears in Ramusio, vol. ii. ; 
in Purchas, iii. ; and in Hakluyt, iii. Hakluyt, i., gives " King Arthur's Voyage 
to Iceland" (a.d, 517), and King Malgo's conquest (a.d. 580), by "Galfridus 
Monumentensis. " Also "A Briefe Commentary of the True State of Island " (or 
Iseland, both used indiscriminately), by Jonas Arngrim. Volume iii. reprints "A 
Voyage of the ships 'Sunshine' and 'North Starre' (of the fleet of Mr John Davis), 
to discover a Passage between Groenland and Iseland " (a.d. 1586). J. Harris 
(Navigantium atque Itinerantium Bibliotheca ; or, a Compleat Collection of Voy- 
ages and Travels, 1705 and 1748), in book ii., chap, ii., sec. 30, p. 489, et seq. 
(edition 1748), offers "A Voyage to the North, containing an Account of the 
Sea Coasts and Rivers of Norway . . . and Iceland, etc." (circa 1605), "ex- 
tracted from the Journal of a Gentleman employed by the North Sea Company at 
Copenhagen." " A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Voyages and Travels," 
published by Sir R. Phillips (London, 1805), reprints (vol. ii.) "Travels in Ice- 
land, performed by order of His Danish Majesty, etc., by Messrs Olafsen and 
Povelsen " (the 6lafsson and Pallsson before alluded to), translated from the 
Danish, map and four plates. Kerr ("A General History and Collection of 
Voyages and Travels, etc.," 1811-24) has a chapter (vol. i., sec. 1, p. 4, et seq.) 


and Murray, 1811. 2d edition, 1813. Tlie author had lost his 
notes with the ship which carried him, and wrote much from 
memory, hence the extreme cacography of the Icelandic words. 
Henderson (ii. 136, note) finds the work " intolerably free-think- 
ing " — times have changed. The botanical notes are valuable, 
and the volumes will, despite all their disadvantages, take rank 
as " classics." 

2. Sir George Steuart Mackenzie, Bart., President of the Phy- 
sical Class of the Eoyal Society, etc., published his " Travels in 
the Island of Iceland during the Summer of the year 1810," Con- 
stable, Edinburgh, 4to; and the book reached a second edition 
in 1812. He took charge of the geological and mineralogical 
departments, whilst Dr (the late Sir Henry) Holland and Dr 
Bright (of Bright's disease) studied the history and literature, 
the zoology and botany. The illustrations and statistical tables 
are highly valuable; and although the Geysir theory is now 
utterly obsolete, literary Icelanders still consider the volume an. 
authority upon scientific matters. 

3. "Iceland, or the Journal of a Eesidence in that Island 
during the years 1814 and 1815." By Ebenezer Henderson, 
Ph.D., M.RS. Gottenburgh, Hon. M. Lit. Soc. of Fuhnen, and 
Corr. M. Scan. Lit. Soc. of Copenhagen. 1st edition, 2 vols. 
8vo, Oliphant, Edinburgh, 1818. 2d edition, 1819. A notice 
of his book will conclude this Section. 

4. " Statistisk Udsigt over den danske Stat i Begyndelsen af 
Aaret, 1825, af Frederik Thaarup, Etatsraad," 8vo, Kjobenhavn, 
1825, with Atlas. Valuable for tables of figures. 

5. F. Paully. "Topographie von Danmark einschliesslich 
Islands," etc., Altona, 1828. 

6. Bjornus Gunnlaugi, fiKus. " De Mensura et Delineatione 
Islandise interioris," etc. In Monasterio Videyensi, 1834. 

7. John Barrow, jun. "A Visit to Iceland" (in 1834), pub- 
lished in 1835 : the volumes are highly useful, as affording an 
excellent comparison of the past with the present. 

on the Discovery of Iceland by the Norwegians in the ninth century about a.d. 
861. J. Laharpe (vol. xvi.) quotes Horrebow (1750), Anderson (1746), Jonas 
Arngrim, and " Flocco, a Norwegian pirate." The "Allgemeine Historie der 
Reisen zu Wasser und zu Lande," etc., Leipzig, 1769 (pp. 1-63, map and plate), 
contains "Besondere Geschichte von Island." 



8. The Hon. Arthur Dillon published "A Winter (1834) in 
Iceland and Lapland." 2 vols. Colburn, London, 1840. The 
season happened to be especially rigorous, of course preventing 
long travels into the interior: the studies of agriculture and 
fisheries have especial interest. Mr Dillon has visited Iceland 
more than once. 

9. "Lettres sur I'lslande," par X. Marmier, 8vo, Paris, 1837.^ 

10. " Voyage en Islande et au Groenlande, execute pendant les 
annees 1855 et 1856 sur la Corvette ^La Eecherche,' commandee 
par M. Trehouart, Lieutenant de Vaisseau dans le but de 
d^couvrir les traces de la Lilloise. Public par ordre du Roi, 
sous la direction de M. Paul Gaimard, President de la Commis- 
sion Scientifique d'Islande et de Greenland." 8 vols. 8vo. 

Tome 1. Histoire de Voyage, par M. P. Gaimard, 8vo, Paris, 

„ 2. Histoire de Voyage, par M. Eugene Eobert, 8vo, 

Paris, 1850. 
„ 3. Journal de Voyage, par M. Eugene Mequet, 8vo, 

Paris, 1852. 
„ 4. Zoologie et Medicine, par M. Eugene Robert,^ 8vo, 

Paris, 1851. 

^ In 1837 appeared the first southern attempt at a novel upon hyperhorean 
subjects — "Han d'Islande," which Jules Janin (Les Catacombes, i. 102) de- 
scribed as " Oette vive, passionee et grossiere ebauche d'un horn me qui avait 
Notre Dame de Paris dans la tete et les Orientales dans le coeur. " The great 
author's mind must have been very young Avhen he wrote it. This silly and 
childish farrago bears the same relation to " Notre Dame" as "Titus Andronicus" 
to the "Tempest" or to "Othello." Han is an impossible savage, ever with a 
tempete sous un crane. Ordener is a ridiculous Timon, and the sudden conversion 
of Schuhmacher to absurd benevolence is worthy of caricature-loving Dickens. 
"With the exception of a few striking remarks, it shows more of fury and frenzy 
than of fine wit. It forcibly calls to mind the late Prosper Merimee's harsh 
judgment of M. Victor Hugo as a poet: " He is all imagery. There is neither 
matter, nor solidity, nor common sense in his verse ; he is a man who gets drunk 
on his own words, and who no longer takes the trouble of thinking." And Han 
d'Islande explains how the austere old litterateur detected a vein of insanity in 
the greatest poet of the French Kevival, the Eomantic School which dates from 

Nor amongst travellers can we reckon M. Jules Verne's * ' Voyage au Centre de 
la Terre," the least meritorious of the "terribly thrilling" and marvellously 
impossible series ; its scene is chiefly below "Snelfles " (Snsefelljokull), a sniflling 
disguise, which seems to have been, but is not, invented in jest. 

^ M. Robert was the mineralogist, geologist, and botanist of the expedition ; he 
received special directions from M. Adolphe Brogniart (Professor of Botany in the 
Museum of Natural History, Paris) ; he traversed the greater part of the island 
in 1835-36, and at his request Hr Vahl, a Danish botanist, who had lived long in 


Tome 5. Mineralogie et Geologie, par M. Eugene Eobert, 8vo, 

Paris, 1840. 
„ 6. Physique, par M. Victor Lottin, 8vo, Paris, 1838. 
„ 7. Histoire d'Islande, par M. Xavier Marmier, 8vo, 

Paris, 1840. 
„ 8. Litt^rature Islandaise, par M. Xavier Marmier, 8vo, 

Paris, 1843. 
This expedition was determined upon in the year 1835, and was 
followed by another in 1836. The government of Louis Philippe, 
claiming to be in the van of civilisation, resolved to give the voy- 
age a scientific aspect, and to publish it regardless of expense — 
the cost is about £21. It is admirably got up, with every luxe of 
printing ; there is Gallic discipline in the strict editorial control ; 
and each contributor is allowed full advantage of space and 
illustrations — what a contrast to the shabby article which 
ultra-economical England would have produced ! But, though 
semi-oflficial, it is an immense mass of undigested informa- 
tion, greatly varying in value ; and the President, who had ac- 
companied Captain Freycinet in the circumnavigating frigate 
" Uranie," is not generally over-appreciated in Iceland. His 
illustrations are so exaggerated as to be simply ridiculous, and 
unfortunately they have been transferred to the pages of suc- 
ceeding authors. Thus Dufferin borrows the two Needles off 
Snsefell and the Icelandic girl, and Paijkull takes Hekla, whilst 
the cave of Surtshellir and the domestic interior are reproduced 
by Forbes, who gives additional horrors to the Bruara. 

11. "Historia Ecclesiastica Islandise ab anno 1740 ad annum 
1840," auctore P. Petursson. Havnise : Bianco Luno, 1841. A 
continuation of the learned Hannes Finsson's well-known 
book, written in Danish and Latin by the present Bishop of 

12. Lieutenant-Colonel Xorth Ludlow Beamish, "Discovery 
of America by the Northmen in the Tenth Century, with 
Notices of the Early Settlements of the Irish in the Western 
Hemisphere" (1841). 

Greenland, revised the published lists, especially Hooker's, and drew up a fresh 
list, corrected to 1840. Since that time, Iceland has been visited by Mr Babing- 
ton of Cambridge (1846), who also made collections. For others, see Section VII. 


13. Vol. 28 of the Edinburgh Cabinet Library. Edinburgh, 
1840. A compilation. 

14. " Physisch-geographische Skizze von Island mit besondere 
Kucksicht auf Vulcanische Erscheinungen." Von W. Sartorius 
von Waltershausen. Gottingen Studien, 1847. Erste Abthei- 
lung Seiten 321-460, Gottingen, 1847. The author visited the 
island in 1846 ; his scientific reputation attracts readers, but he 
writes with a prodigious exaggeration on general subjects, and 
especially on scenery. 

Amongst books of Icelandic travel, again, we cannot include 
the " Letters of Columbus," edited by Mr E. H. Major, Hakluyt 
Society, 1847, and recording the remarkable visit of the explorer 
in A.D. 1477 to the country which in mediaeval times discovered 
the New World. The fact had already been established by Finn 
Magniisson in his " Nordisk Tidsskrift for Old-Kyndighed." 
This was followed by the even more interestiug " Voyages of the 
Venetian brothers Nicolo and Antonio Zeno to the Northern Seas 
in the Fourteenth Century " (written out by Antonio Zeno, and 
first edited in 1558 by their descendant Mcolo Zeno, junior. 
Mr Major has identified "Frislanda" with Faeroisland of the 
Danes; "Estlanda" on the map, and "Estlanda," "Eslanda," 
and "Islande" in the text, with the Shetlands; "Porlanda" 
with the Orkneys ; " Engronelanda" with Greenland ; " Estoti- 
landa" and "Drogeo" with parts of North America; and the 
mysterious "Zichmni" with Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney 
and Caithness. He has also " rehabilitated " Ivar Bardsen and 
the lost Gunnbjarnarsker, the Skerries of Gunnbjorn, son of Ulf 
Kraka, who reached them in A.D. 877. 

15. Professor Eobert Wilhelm Bunsen of Heidelberg (nat. 
1811) visited Iceland with M. Descloiseaux in 1846, spent 
eleven days at the Gey sir, and published two papers : (1.) Memoir 
on the intimate connection existing between the pseudo-volcanic 
phenomena of Iceland (works of the Cavendish Society, " Chemi- 
cal Eeports and Memoirs, edited by Thomas Graham, V.P.E.S., 
London, Harrison, 1848) ; and (2.) On the processes which have 
taken place during the formation of the volcanic rocks of 
Iceland (from Poggendorff's "Annalen," part i., Nov. 1851, 
" Scientific Memoirs, selected from the Transactions of Foreign 


Academies of Science, and from Foreign Journals," London, 
Taylor & Francis). The great chemist's article on Palagonite 
in the " Annalen der Chimie und Pharmacie " (vol. Ixi.) won for 
him the Copley medal of the Eoyal Society of London ; and his 
studies on Iceland are the basis of modern scientific knowledge. 
It is to be regretted that his two admirable papers are buried in 
bad translation amongst the voluminous transactions of obscure 
societies, and their reproduction in a popular form would be a 
boon to travellers not only in the island, but also throughout 
the volcanic world. Mr B. Quaritch kindly allowed the author 
to make manuscript copies of these two articles : they have 
afforded material to the able lecture " On some of the Eruptive 
Phenomena of Iceland," by Dr John Tyndall, F.RS. (Eoyal 
Institution of Great Britain, June 3, 1853). 

16. P. A. Schleisner. " Island undersogt fra et Isegeviden- 
skabeligt Synspunkt," Copenhagen, 1849. The author, an em- 
ploye of the Danish Government, resided some time on the 
island, and made useful physiological observations — one of them 
has before been alluded to. 

17. Madame Ida Pfeiffer ("Eeise nach dem skand Norden," 
1845), after travelling in Syria and " the East," visited Iceland 
in 1844, hoping " there to find E'ature in a garb such as she 
wears nowhere else." She laughs at the "dreadful dizzy 
abysses;" but the "dignified coldness" of the popular manners 
and the selfishness, only too apparent to an undistinguished 
foreigner, made her write what Mr Pliny Miles ungallantly calls 
a snarling, ill-tempered journal. The American traveller, also, 
is too severe when he says, " Where she does not knowingly tell 
direct falsehoods, the guesses she makes about those regions that 
she does not visit — while stating that she does ^ — show her to 
be bad at guess-work." Her translated volume, "A Visit to 
Iceland," etc. (London, Ingram, 1854) has been analysed in the 
" Cyclopaedia of Modern Travel" (Bayard Taylor, 1856). 

^ The writer could have learned this only from Iceland information, and he 
should have been more cautious in listening to the islanders, especially when 
they were criticising what they consider a hostile book. On the other hand, 
Madame Pfeiffer has left an impression upon the reader that the clergy take 
money from travellers — which is certainly not the case now, and probably never 
was general. 

246 ULTIMA thule; or, 

18. "Bidrag til Islands geognostiske Fremstilling efter Opteg- 
nelser fra Sommeren, 1850 " (Contribution to the Geognosy of 
Iceland, from Observations made in the Summer of 1850), by 
Theodor Kjerulf. Published in the "Nyt Magazin for Naturvi- 
denskaberne," vol. vii., part 1, Christiania, 1853 (New Magazine 
of the Natural Sciences, which records the transactions of the 
Physiographical Society of Christiania), an excellent equivalent 
of our " Annals of Natural History." The author differs from 
Von Waltershausen and Bunsen upon the genesis of Iceland 
(Dr W. Lauder Lindsay). 

19. " NorSurfari, or Eambles in Iceland," by Pliny Miles, 12mo, 
New York, 1854. The author was the first American tourist who 
visited the island (1852), and he attempts little more than an 
entertaining narrative of his adventures. There is a fair amount 
of " spread eagle," and the tone is " England for ever, and America 
one day longer." An officer nearly cuts a shark in two with a 
sword. The whales can be heard from one to two miles off, and 
spout every one or five minutes, throwing up water from thirty 
to fifty feet — they must blow like himself ! 

20. " Tracings of Iceland and the Faroe Islands," by Ptobert 
Chambers, London, 1856. The author visited the island in 
1855, voyaging on board the Danish cruiser "Thor," the first 
steamer — before his time the dangers of the northern seas were 
faced by sailing craft. The little book was translated into 
Danish, but the islanders affect to despise it. 

21. "Voyage dans les Mers du Nord a bord de la corvette 
' La Peine Hortense,' " par M. Charles Edmund. Paris : Levy, 
1857. The author describes Prince Napoleon's tour in a volume 
which has all the characteristic merits and faults of the average 
French traveller. In the following pages it will be called the 
" Napoleon book." 

22. Messrs Wolley and Newton confined themselves, with an 
especial object in view, to one particular parish in the south- 
western corner of Iceland. An " Abstract of (the late) Mr J. 
Wolley's Eesearches in Iceland, 1847, 1851, and 1852, respect- 
ing the Gare Fowl, or Great Auk ; " by Alfred Newton, M.A., 
F.L.S., appeared in the "Ibis" of October 1861. The author's 
name is sufficient warrant for the value of this excellent paper. 


In Baring-Gould (Appendix, p. 400), Mr Newton quotes numer- 
ous works upon the avi-fauna of Iceland. 

23. " Letters from High Latitudes," by Lord Dufferin, London, 
1858. The amiable author visited the island at the same time 
as Prince Napoleon, and proposed to cross the unknown tract 
between Hekla and the north-eastern coast; unfortunately the 
yacht '' Foam " was carried away by the attractions of Jan May en 
and Spitzbergen. The adoption of a quasi-dramatic form has 
caused the book to be pronounced " most entertaining and 
perhaps a little extravagant ; " it is written in the best of 
humours and in the most genial style, but it has failed to 
please the islanders who do not understand plaisanterie. 

24. J. Dayman. " Deep Sea Soundings between Iceland and 
Newfoundland," etc. (1858). 

25. ''A Hand - book for Travellers in Denmark, Norway, 
Sweden, and Iceland," with maps and plans. London : John 
Murray, 1858, and republished in 1871. The island is dis- 
missed in barely three pages, which contain a vast variety of 
errors ; for instance, the population is preserved at 60,000 ; we 
are taught to write " Almannia Gja ; " and we are told that 
Henderson wrote before 1825 — conmo! The recondite blunders 
may almost compare with the four pages on Istria in the "Hand- 
book for South Germany." Happily for the traveller, Baedecker's 
excellent series is speedily consigning the cumbrous and tedious 
" Murrays " to well-merited oblivion. 

26. J. Hogg. " On the History of Iceland" (1859). 

27. D. Streye. " Beskrivelse over den </> Islandia," etc. 
Kjobenhavn, 1859. 

28. G. Thomsen. " The Northmen in Iceland," etc. (1859). 

29. " Iceland : its Volcanoes, Geysers, and Glaciers." By 
Charles S. Forbes, Commander Eoyal Navy (Murray, London, 
1860). The volume was kindly lent to the author by Captain 
Bedford Pim, M.P. ; and its merit has been acknowledged by the 
general regret that there is not " more of it." 

30. C. Irminger. " Stromninger og Isdrift ved Island." Kjo- 
benhavn, 1861. 

31. " Eeise nach Island im Sommer 1860." Mit wissen- 
schaftHchen. Abhangen von William Preyer und Dr Ferdi- 

248 ULTIMA thule; or, 

nand Zirkel. 8vo, Leipzig, 1862. The statistical part is exceed- 
ingly valuable. The work also contains the most complete 
notice of the birds that has been published after the " Prodromus 
der islandischen Ornithologie," by Friedrich Faber, better known 
as "Fugl Faber;" but it is judged that "the writer has not 
shown sufficient discrimination in its compilation." 

32. "A Tour in Iceland in the Summer of 1861." By Edward 
Thurstan Holland, A.M. Chap, i., vol. i., 2d series : " Peaks, 
Passes, and Glaciers ; being Excursions by Members of the Alpine 
Club." Edited by Edward Shirley Kennedy, M.A., F.E.G.S. 
London, 1862. The author attempted in 1861 to ascend the 
southern side of the Orsefa Jokull, but the mists prevented his 
enjoying the good fortune of Swend Paulsson and of Henderson. 

33. "The Oxonian in Iceland; or Notes of Travel in that 
Island in the Summer of 1860." By Eev. Frederick Metcalfe, 
A.M. 12mo, Hotten, London, 1861. This traveller crossed a bit 
of new country north-east of the Sprengisandur, and thus devi- 
ated from the common line. He has preserved the traditional 
exaggeration which characterises Icelandic travellers, and the 
dangers which he faces on Mount Hekla must have been simply 
a dream. His map, purporting to be reduced from Olsen's, is 
peculiarly bad. 

34. W. Lauder Lindsay, M.D., F.L.S. " On the Flora of Ice- 
land," l^ew Philosophical Journal ; and " On the Eruption, in 
May 1860, of the Kotlu-gja Volcano, Iceland." Neill & Co., 
Edinburgh, 1861 — valuable papers which should accompany 
the traveller. They were kindly lent to the author by Mr 
William Longman. 

35. G.G.Winkler. "Island seine Bewohner," etc. Bravansch, 

36. M. Barbatier de Mas. " Instructions nautiques sur les 
Cotes d'Islande." Paris, 1862. 

37. A. J. Symington. " Pen and Pencil Sketches of Faroe 
and Iceland." Longmans, London, 1862. Unpretending. 

38. " Iceland : its Scenes and Sagas," by Sabine Baring-Gould, 
M.A. London : Smith & Elder, 1863. This handsome volume 
of 447 pages is written with an object, to illustrate the Sagas 
and to represent their 3Iise en Seine. The author sees the 


Icelander as lie is ; the topography is that of a geographical 
traveller ; and the book contains an immense amount of useful 
information. Taking the realistic view, this excellent work is 
not a favourite in Iceland ; my only complaint is that it lacks 
an index. 

39. C. Irminger. " INTotice sur les Peches, etc., de ITslande." 
Paris, 1863. 

40. CarlYogt. " Iv^rdenfahrt von Dr Berna " (1863). 

41. " Notes on a Trip to Iceland in 1862." By Alexander 
Bryson. Edinburgh: Grant, 1864. The object of the livret 
(56 pages) was to gauge and to determine the heat of the Geysir 
tube, by means of deversing thermometers ; and the author has 
sensibly questioned the " central-heat " theory. 

42. M. Thoyon. " Eenseignements sur quelques Mouillages 
sur la Cote d'Islande." Paris, 1865. 

43. " Travels by ' Umbra ' " (Clifford). Edmonstone & Dou- 
glas, Edinburgh, 1865. The author, by ascending the Jokull of 
Eyrikr, that northern Cacus, Reached eternal winter's drear domain. 
He justly derides the horrors and terrors of Biilandshof^i. 

44. "The North- Western Peninsula of Iceland," by C. W. 
Shepheard. London : Longmans, 1867. This was the author's 
second excursion, and he ascended the Dranga Jokull in the 
north, where the mountains are lower and acces^ible.^ 

45. W. G. PaijkuU. " Bidrag till Kannedomen om Islands 
Bergsbyggnad." Stockholm, 1867. Translated by the Eev. M. 
K. Barnard, M.A. London : Chapman & Hall, 1868. The 
author, now dead, was a Swede, and professed geology at the 
University of Upsala; he travelled in 1865, and unfortunately 
neglected to supply his volume with an index and a decent 
map. Its merits are much debated, and, as a rule, its tone is 

1 Amongst Icelandic travels we cannot include the valuable commercial papers, 
often alluded to in these pages — (1.) by Mr Vice-Consul Crowe, " Keport on the 
Fisheries, Trade, and General Features of Iceland, for the years 1865-66 ;" and 
(2.) by Mr Consul Crowe, *' On the Trade and Fisheries of Iceland, for the years 
1870-71." It is evident that the able author has not been in Iceland or he 
would not say "the schools are excellent and well attended," when there are 
absolutely no schools. It is to be regretted that the Foreign Office does not 
enable writers to correct their proof-sheets ; we should then not have in a single 
page such blemishes as Skrid Sokler (Joklar) ; Orsefa Tokull (Jokull) ; Odada- 
hrann (OdaSa Hraun); and Kekjavik-cura-Keykjavik (for Reykjavik) repeated 
throughout the paper. 


greatly disliked by the islanders. An excellent authority, Dr 
Hjaltalin of Eeykjavik, who has published several important 
studies of his native land,^ considers it of scant value ; on the 
other hand, Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin recommends it for its modera- 
tion to English travellers. 

46. H. Mohn of the Institut M^teorologique de Norvege. 
" Temperature de la Mer entre I'lslande et I'Ecosse." Christiania, 

47. " A Eeport on the Resources of Iceland and Greenland." 
Compiled by Benjamin Mills Peirce, U.S. State Department, 
Washington Government Printing Office. The author was 
charged by Mr Secretary Seward to inspect the sulphur mines, 
1868. He personally visited the island and produced a useful 
paper, collating the accounts and the figures published by his 
predecessors ; but, like such compilations generally, it abounds 
in errors, and it makes scanty attempt to discriminate the various 
value of the information which it gleans. 

48. " Six Weeks in the Saddle : a Painter's Journal in Ice- 
land." By S. G. Waller. London: Macmillan, 1874. An un- 
pretending volume which has held its ground at Mudie's, and 
which carefully avoids disputed points and exaggerated state- 
ments. The illustrations are very poor compared with the 
charming studies of scenery and animals made by the author, 
and it wants index and map, without which the home-reader will 
hardly follow the line over the now rarely visited southern shore. 

49. The Alpine Journal, No. 45 (Longmans, London, 1874), 
contains " Interesting Notes on Mountain Climbing in Iceland," 
by Dr James Bryce, who also during the same year published 
his " Impressions of Iceland " in the Cornhill Magazine. He 
justly remarks that the difficulty is not so much to climb the 
peaks as to traverse the inhospitable desert separating them 
from the inhabited parts. 

Mr S. Baring-Gould (Intr., pp. xxxiv., xxxv.) gives a catalogue 
of the fifteen books and manuscripts usually found amongst 
the priests and farmers ; and in Appendix D. a list of Icelandic 

^ Dr Hjaltalin has written many articles on sanitary matters and tlie natural 
history of Iceland, which have appeared in various periodicals, Icelandic, Danish, 
and English. He has also published for several years the " HeilbrigSistiSindi " 
(Sanitary News). 


published Sagas (thirty-five), local histories (sixty-six), annals of 
bishops (twelve), annals of Norway, etc. (sixty-nine), and 
romances translated into Icelandic (nineteen), a total of 201 ; 
besides law-books, Bible stories, and tracts on poetry, geography, 
astronomy, etc. The various editions of the Bible and of the 
Testament, as well as the newspaper press, will be noticed in 
future pages. 

Miscellaneous general information concerning Iceland is found 
in the following works : The Foreign Qimrterly Review (vol. ix., 
Jan.-May 1832) contains an excellent paper on the ''Literature 
and Literary Societies of Iceland." The '' Memoires de la Societe 
Eoyale des Antiquaires du Nord " are a mine of information to 
the student. Mrs Somerville's " Physical Geography." The 
" Progress of the Nation," by G. R Porter, Esq., F.R.S. (" Insti- 
tute of Natural Science," Paris correspondence. London, 1851). 
" Meddelelser fra det statistiske Bureau," vols. i.-vi. Kjobenhavn, 
1852-1861. In the fourth volume of the " Description of the 
Coast of Iceland" ("Fierde Hefte af Beskrivelsen over den 
islandske Kyst") by P. de Lowenorn, is a paper which was 
strongly recommended for translation to the author of these 
pages by Captain Tvede of Djupivogr. The various numbers of 
the "Mittheilungen aus Justus Perthes," etc. Herschel's "Physi- 
cal GeogTaphy," 2d edition, Edinburgh, 1862. Lippencott's 
" Complete Pronouncing Gazetteer, or Geographical Dictionary 
of the World," 8vo, Philadelphia, 1866. Chambers' and other 
Cyclopaedias. Bayard Taylor's " Cyclopsedia of Modern Travel," 
New York, 1856. " Cyclopaedia Britannica," vol. xii., 1856. 
Knight's " English Encyclopaedia " (pp. 1333-1345) of 1873, has 
printed an admirably condensed paper on Icelandic language 
and literature, by Mr Jon A. Hjaltalin.^ 

As the " marking book " of the last century was M. Mallet's 
" Antiquities," so there are three which distinguish the present 
age. The late Mr Benjamin Thorpe's " Edda of Ssemund the 
Learned " ^ (London : TrUbner, 1866) is a text-book of Scandi- 

1 Near the end of the paper we read, ** Iceland was now (after union with Nor- 
way) governed as a colony ; " this assertion, it is said, belongs not to the author 
but to the editor. 

2 Laing's " Heimskringla " is a work of a very different kind, not translated 
from the original. 


navian mytliology delighting Icelanders by tlie literal rendering 
of their classical poem ; it must be familiar to the student before 
lie can attack the difficulties of Skjaldic song. The second is 
the " Story of Burnt Njal," etc., by George Webbe Dasent, D.C.L. 
(2 vols., Edmonstone & Douglas, Edinburgh, 1861). The intro- 
duction is the work of a scholar ; the translation rivals Lane's 
" Arabian Mghts," in fidelity, picturesqueness, and, withal, sound 
old English style, and the maps and plans well illustrate the 
topography. It has sent one, it will send many an English 
tourist to gaze upon the Lithe-end; and it will serve as an 
example how such books should be treated. But the magnum 
opus of the day, the greatest boon to students yet known, is the 
** Icelandic-English Dictionary " (3 vols. foL, Macmillan & Co., 
1869, 1870, and 1874).i Based upon the MS. notes of the late 
Eichard Cleasby, under whose name, as is his due, it is referred 
to in these pages, the work was enlarged and completed by the 
first of Icelandic philologers, Mr GuSbrand Vigfusson, M.A., 
formerly one of the stipendiaries of the Arna-Magnsean Library 
at Copenhagen. The herculean task has been completed after 
the patient toil of nine years (1864-1873), and all credit is due 
to the delegates of the Clarendon Press, who " generously fostered 
this Icelandic Dictionary and made it a child of their famous 
university." The introduction, by Mr Dasent, awards high praise 
to the work, but notliing that he can say is too high. 

Iceland is not in want of maps ; almost every traveller has 
contributed his own, and hence the atlases have borrowed a 
variety of blunders. The most interesting of the older sort are 
those of Hendries (Jodocuf, A.D. 1563-1611), which shows a 
curious acquaintance with certain fodince sulphurece ; and of 
Pontanus (a.d. 1631) Auctore Giorgio Carolo Elandre. The latter 
displays Hekla, the towering cone of our childish fancies, vomiting 
a huge bouquet of smoke, while it ignores all other volcanoes. 

^ The author can practically answer for its value. When travelling in 1872 he 
had only the first volume, and thus whilst tolerably acquainted with the words 
between A and the first half of H, he found it impossible, within given limits, to 
master the rest. In the ** Days of Ignorance " it was necessary to learn Danish 
in order to use the Icelandic Dictionary. It is only to be hoped that the English- 
Icelandic half of the work will follow in due season, and doubtless some enter- 
prising publisher, like Mr Triibner, will presently give us portable editions of 


The islands are especially incorrect : the " Westmanna sen Pis- 
tilia (for Papyli ?) Eijar," fronted on the main by "Corvi Albi/' ^ 
are out of form and measure ; the archipelago called I. Gouber- 
man (Gunnbjorn Skerries ?) off the north-western coast, does not 
exist; and Grimsey has dimensions which are strange to it. 
As in all of them ; the north is placed too high ; the Arctic circle 
traverses nearly the centre of the island, the furthest septen- 
trional point being K lat. 68° 15'. The eastern shore is also laid 
down too far west (E. long. Ferro, 10°) : hence, as Barrow shows, 
Arrowsmith's map of 1808 was sixty-seven miles wrong in the 
longitude. Henderson supplies Krisuvikwith a non-existing 
inlet upon which foreigners have counted for embarking their 
sulphur, and reduces the vast Myrdals JokuU to the Kotlu-gja 

Shortly before the time when Henderson travelled, several 
Danish officers, detained in Iceland by the war with Great 
Britain, began an exact trigonometrical survey, not only of the 
coast, but of the interior; and their bench-marks still crown 
many a conspicuous point. Their names, well remembered by 
all Danes upon the island, were the " Herr Officeerer," Major 
Scheel, Lieutenant Westlesen, and Landmaler (surveyor) Asch- 
lund. After 1820, the work was carried on by Captain Born, 
Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) W. A. Graah,^ E.N., an adven- 
turous sailor, and a scientific officer, who died about a dozen 
years ago. Between 1820 and 1826 the following five sheets 
were published : 

1 Possibly a confusion with the pied crow {C. Leucophceus) of the Faeroes. In 
Scandinavian mythology the raven was white, bnt, like the Hajar el Aswad of 
Mecca, it turned black in consequence of babbling and tale-bearing. 

2 He made an expedition to East Greenland in 1828-29 ; and his volume was 
translated by the late E. Gordon Macdougall, and published (London, Parker, 
1837) by the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain — a most sensible step. 
His determination that the East BygS was on the west coast has of late been suc- 
cessfully questioned by Mr R. H. Major (Ocean Highways) through the 1507 
edition of Ptolemy, the map of Van Keulen (circ, a.d. 1700), and the ** Choro- 
graphy" of the old Greenland colony, with sailing directions for reaching it from 
Iceland by Ivar Bardsen, steward of the colonial bishop. Captain Graah had 
denied the existence of Gunnbjorn's Skerries, and so forfeited the guidance of 
Ivar Bardsen. His book, however, is a valuable study of hyperborean regions 
generally, and especially useful as a standard of comparison between Iceland and 
Greenland. In the latter we find the hot springs of Onnartok depositing silicious 
sinter, like the Geysir and Strokkr, whilst the unfinished church of Kakortok 
reminds us of Fseroese Kirkjubse. 

254 ULTIMA thule; or, 

1. SiigefellsjokuU to Cap Nord, in 1820, by Frisch, Westle- 
sen, Smith, Scheel, Born, and Aschlund. 

2. North Coast, in 1821, by Majors Eidder and Scheel, and 
Captains Frisch and Born. 

3 and 4. South Coast, in 1823, by Scheel, Born, Graah, and 

5. East Coast, in 1824, by Olsen, Born, Graah, and Aschlund. 

The general chart of 1826, uniting these "trigonometrical, 
geographical, and hydrographical surveys," is, according to Mr 
Alexander Findlay, F.E.G.S., carefully executed, and became the 
basis of all subsequent issues. 

Unfortunately, it is the local fashion to ignore these scientific 
preliminary labours,^ in favour of Professor Bjorn Gunnlaugs- 
son's large map, which was executed after a comparatively 
running survey, during the twenty years from 1823 to 1843, and 
which, after being drawn up by the late Major Olsen, was 
printed at Copenhagen in 1844. The title is Updrattr Islands a 
fjorum bloSum (in four sheets) gjorSr aS fyrirsogn (executed under 
the direction of) Olafs Nikolas Olsen, gefinn ut af enu (published 
by the) Islenzka Bokmentafelgi. The scale is ^go^joo ^ about six 
or eight miles to the inch. The four-sheet edition has three different 
tintings — one physico- geographical, the second administrative, 
and the third hydrographical, giving soundings, etc. In London 
it costs £2, 2s. ; at Eeykjavik, $9 (= £1). There is a portable 
edition, a single sheet ( 960^)00 )? of two kinds, physico-geographi- 
cal and administrative, costing six or seven shillings. The third 
or smallest size, prefixed, with sundry alterations, to these pages, 
costs one shilling at Eeykjavik. 

Of miscellaneous cartography we have the following : Dr Hein- 
rich Berghaus's " Physikalisher Atlas," Verlag von Justus Perthes, 

^ The fact is, it has become a party question. Hence strangers who, like Dr 
W. Lauder Lindsay (p. 7, "On the Eruption, in May 1860, of the Kotlu-gj^ 
Volcano, Iceland"), are otherwise employed than in making general inquiries, 
ignore the basis. When this great opus was printed (1844), few countries in 
Europe had charts on such a scale, so accurately detailed, and so well engraved. 
Even at present it wants only the names of places being made more legible; 
it is still the standard work, for which seamen and landsmen have reason to be 
grateful, and it forms a solid foundation for future addition to all time. Mr 
Thorne (Ramsdale, Thorn e, & Co.) kindly lent his copy to the author, who un- 
gratefully kept it nearly three years. 


Gotha, 1852 ; Colton's " Atlas of the World," New York, 1855 ; 
Hr Kiepert's " AUgemeiner Hand -Atlas der Ganzgen Erde," 
Weimar, in Verlage des Geographischen Atlas, 1873; and the 
excellent " National Atlas " of Keith Johnston (sen.). 

The latest charts are English, French, and Danish — the latter 
being also used by the Norwegians, who have none of their own. 

(a.) The English Admiralty chart, " Iceland Island," was based 
upon the Danish survey (1845 ; corrected, 1872). 

The nomenclature of our hydrographic works greatly wants 
reform ; even the exact Eaper adheres to " Eeikiavig " and to 
" Sneefeldsyokell." 

(h.) The Danish charts principally used are : 

1. Kaart over Pollen i Skutilsfjord, Isefjords Dybet, opmaalt 

fra Skrueskonnerten Fylla, Junii, 1865-67. 

2. Islands Vestkyst, Stykkisholmr med Grander og Kolgrafa- 

EjorSr, 1869. 

3. Kaart over Island, med omgivende Dybder, 1871. 

(c.) The French, as we might expect from their commercial 
activity, had published before 1868 about a score more of charts 
and harbour plans than all other nations. The principal are : 

1. Carte r^duite des Cotes Septentrionales d'Islande depuis 

le Cap Nord jusqu' a I'ile Malmey, 1822. 

2. Carte reduite des Cotes Occidentales d'Islande, depuis 

Sneefields-Jokel jusqu' au Cap Nord, 1822 (Cartes 
danoises de Lowenorn). 

3. Carte reduite des Cotes Occidentales d'Islande, depuis 

Fugle-Skiserene jusqu' a Huam Fiord, 1822 (Cartes 
danoises de Lowenorn). 

4. Carte reduite des Cotes Septentrionales d'Islande, depuis 

rile Malmey jusqu' au Cap Langanaes, 1823 (Cartes 
danoises Lowenorn). 

5. Carte reduite des Cotes Meridionales d'Islande, depuis le 

Cap Ingolfs-Hofde jusqu' au Cap Eiekienaes, 1832 
(Cartes danoises de Lowenorn). 

6. Carte reduite des Cotes Orientales d'Islande, depuis 

Vopna-Fiord jusqu' au Cap Ingolfs-Hofde, 1832 (Cartes 
danoises de Lowenorn). 


7. Carte r^duite d'Islande et des iles Feroes, 1836. D'apres 

les Cartes danoises de Lowenorn et de Born. 

8. Plan de la baie de Eeikiavik, 1842 (MM. West; De la 

Roche, ingenieur-hydrographe ; R de Saint- Vulfran, et 
autres officiers de la Marine, 1840). 

9. Plan du Mouillage d'Onondar Fiord ; Plan du Mouillage 

de Patrix-Fiord (Islande), 1845; corr. 1862 (MM. 
Brosset et Soyer, officiers de la Marine). 

10. Plan de I'entree du Hyal-Fiord, 1855 (MM. Caraguel, 

Borius, et Eapatel). 

11. Plan du Mouillage d'Eske-Fiord. Croquis des Mouil- 

lages du Spath et de Svartas-Kiser, 1855 (MM. Duval, 
H. Lavigne, et Delville). 

12. Carte de Dyre-Fiord, 1856 (MM. de Eochebrunne, 

Mathieu, et Ternier). 

13. Plan des Mouillages de Dyre-Fiords, 1856 (MM. 

Mathieu et Ternier, 1855). 

14. Plan du havre de Grone-Fiord, 1855 ; corr. 1858 (Veron 

et autres officiers de la Marine, 1857). 

15. Plan de Faskrud-Fiord, 1858 (MM. Barlatier, De Mas 

et Pettier, 1856). 

16. Plan des passes de Eode-Fiord, 1858 (MM. Veron, 

Pottier, etc., 1857). 

17. Carte des atterages de Eeikiavik (Faxe Bugt) 1859. 

Houz^ de I'Aulnoit d'apres les travaux executes de 
1853 a 1857. 

18. Plan-croquis du havre de I^ord-Fiord, 1860 (MM. Veron, 

Launay, etc., 1858). 

19. Plan du havre de Kolgraver- Fiord, 1860 (Veron et 

autres officiers de la Marine, 1858). 

20. Plan de la partie de la Cote Sud du Brede-Bugt (Cote 

Occidentale d'Islande) 1861. 

21. Croquis du Mouillage de Hogdal dans Dyre-Fiord, 1861 

(MM. West, lieutenant du vaisseau, et De Sedieres, 

22. Carte de I'entree du Golfe de Berii- Fiord et de la 

baie de Hammard-Fiord. Carte du Breidals Bugt, 


23. Plan du mouillage d'Akureyre (Oe-Fiord), 1864 (Butter, 

lieutenant de vaisseau). 

24. Plan de Skutils-Fiord et du port de Pollen, 1867 (MM. 

Gu^rard et Petit de Baroncourt). 

25. Croquis du mouillage de Bildal dans Arnar-Fiord, 1867 

(MM. Gudrard et Petit de Baroncourt). 

This section can hardly end more appropriately than with a 
notice of Dr Ebenezer Henderson's two volumes which, though 
published in 1818, and although we no longer land in Iceland as 
in Africa (i. 9), are still useful in 1874. The author died in 1829, 
but he is remembered by the islanders ; and his name, cut in 
Hebrew letters upon the " soft yellow tufa " (Palagonite), the 
nafna-klettar (Wady el Mukattab) of Hytardal, nearly sixty years 
ago, is, and long will be, shown to travellers. Lacking scientific 
training, and, probably, one of the seri studiorum, for his learning, 
especially his Hebrew, reads like an excrescence upon the simple 
journal, this writer has solid merits, and he enjoyed unusual ad- 
vantages. His style is respectable; he has an exceptional eye for 
country, rare in the traveller as catching the likeness is in the por- 
trait-painter; his powers of observation are remarkable, as shown 
by the observations upon the SkriSjoklar; he received every atten- 
tion and much information from the clergy, in those days even 
more powerful than now ; his employment as a colporteur of the 
" Sacred Oracles," which, by the by, were so faultily translated 
that they did not deserve to supersede Bishop GuSbrand's version, 
threw him much amongst the people ; and his extensive travels 
during three years enabled him to publish the best, because the 
most general, book on Iceland known to the English tongue. 

On the other hand, liis pious expressions are so obsolete, that 
in these days we look upon them as almost irreverent. He has 
all the narrow-mindedness of the early nineteenth century — the 
Georgian era and the golden age of the evangelical middle 
classes. His credulity is astounding; he has a bulimia of faith; 
he eagerly records every ridiculous tale he hears — if you dis- 
believe him, you are a sceptic with a sub-flavour of atheism. He 
quotes without surprise the igneous vapours attaching themselves 

to the persons of the inhabitants; the under garments of a farmer 


being consumed when the outer suit was uninjured; and the 
lightning which burned in the pores of a woman's body, singeing 
the clothes she wore (i. 311, 316), a tale frequently copied by 
others. He borrows his natural history from Horrebow, and 
from dlafsson and Pallsson, who wrote in A.D. 1755. The 
weakest fox manages to secure all the food (ii. 98). The silly 
bear deluded by the mitten, a fable so well known to children's 
books, is his. Upon the authority of a parson and an old woman, 
he supplies the Mus sylvaticus not only with a cow-chip canoe, but 
also with a mushroom carpet-bag (ii. 185) : it excels the ani- 
mantia plaustra of Polignac's Anti-Lucretius. His terrific descrip- 
tions of the road and the ford, dangers mostly fanciful, and 
his exaggerated horrors, must not be set down to want of manli- 
ness. An earnest and pious man, he yearns in every page to 
pull off his hat, to fall upon his knees, and to thank protecting 
and preserving Providence for some imaginary hair-breadth 
escape. The French travellers made observations for temperature 
and other matters in the floods which he describes as the most 
dangerous; and his eight-miles-an-hour current (i. 181) is simply 
a delusion. 

The book has one great element of success, and the string of 
initials appended to the author's name prove that it has been 
successful. To use a popular phrase, all his " geese are swans " 
— a view highly flattering and very agreeable to the good geese, 
but a process hardly likely to leave a truthful impress upon the 
unprejudiced reader's brain. He complains that there are free- 
thinking priests, but every clerk he meets is a model of orthodox 
piety. He vaunts the hospitality of the land, and only casually 
lets fall the remark that, although he was employed on a highly 
popular mission, a single peasant refused to take money from 
him. Critics are agreed upon his estimate of " J. Milton's Para- 
disar Missir," by Jon Thorlakson.^ " The translation not only 
rises superior to any other translation of Milton, but rivals, and 
in many instances in which the Eddaic phraseology is introduced 
almost seems to surpass, the original. . . . Thorlakson has 

^ Every serious Icelandic traveller of the nineteenth century has alluded more 
or less to the career of the Rev. Jon Thorlaksson, parish priest of Backa, who 


not only supported its prevailing character, but has nicely imi- 
tated his (author's) peculiar terms and more refined modifica- 
tions." . . . And " although Thorlakson has found it impos- 
sible to give the effect of certain sounds, yet this defect is more 
than compensated by the multiplicity of happy combinations 
where none exist in the original " (vol. i., 98). All good judges 
declare that the Icelander has recast Milton in Scandinavian 
mould, and has produced a beautiful Icelandic poem upon the 
English groundwork. The narrow bounds of the narrative 
measure (FornyrSalag ^) could never contain the now sweet now 
sonorous Miltonic verse ; and the last sentence quoted from Mr 
Henderson, as well as his own specimens of the work, clearly 
show his ignorance of what a translation should be. 

Mr William Longman, Vice-President of the Alpine Club, has 
done good service to the Icelandic traveller by digesting Mr 
Henderson's Itineraries (Suggestions for the Exploration of Ice- 
land. London: Longmans, 1861), and by adding many useful 

lived as best becomes a poet, in poverty, and who died in poverty, set. seventy-five, 
in 1819. He thus laments his hard fate : 

' ' Yes ; Penury hath been my bride 

Since e'er I saw the world of men ; 
And clasped me to her rugged breast 

These seventy winters all but twain : 
And if we separate here below. 
He only knows who made it so." 

His "living," besides glebe and parish gifts, was £6 per annum, of which half 
was paid to an assistant (Henderson and Barrow) ; and he did not live to receive 
the £20 collected for him in England. He translated Pope's Essay on Man, 
Klopstock's Messiah, and Paradise Lost. The three first books of the latter were 
printed by the Islenzka Lserdomslista - felag (Icel. Lit. Society) before it was 
dissolved in 1796. The original MS. is deposited in the rooms of the Literary 
Fund, London. 

^ Forn-yrSi, an old word, an archaism ; hence Eddaic verse. We may illustrate 
its alliteration by Peirce Plowman : 

* ' I looked on my left half 
As the Lady me taught, 
And was ware of a woman 
Worthlyith clothed." 

Finn Magntisson and Rask thus converted Virgil into narrative verse : 

** Arma virumque 
Cano, Trojse 
Qui primus ab oris 
Fato profugus, 
Lavinaque venit 
Littora," etc. 


items of information. But tlie reader, however capable, must 
not expect to carry out the programme. In page 30 the author 
seems to think ten days sufficient to attempt the ascent or ex- 
ploration of Kotlu-gja, Kalfafell, SkeiSararjokuU, Orsefa, and 
BreiSamerkr JokulL Each of these " congealed Pandemonia," 
with the inevitable delays in travelling from one to the other, 
would probably consume a fortnight. Iceland is no place for 
dilettanti grimpetors ; it has neither comfortable inns nor Bureaux 
des Guides — these Alps are not to be passed over summd dili- 
gentid ; and M. Jules Verne's balloon has not yet found its way 

§ 2. Preparations for Travel. 

Icelandic travel is of two kinds — the simple tour and the 
exploration. Most men content themselves with landing at 
Eeykjavik, and with making the Cockney trip to Thingvellir, 
the Geysir and Hekla, perhaps visiting the Laxa, Laugarnes 
BessastaSir, HafnarfjorS, Krisuvik, and Eeykir. Others add to 
this a run to the local Staffa, Stappa, a more or less complete 
ascent of SnaefellsjokuU, and a visit to Eeykholt, Surts-hellir, 
Baula, and Eldborg. If more adventurously disposed, they cross 
the ArnarvatnsheiSi and the Storisandur to Akureyri, the north- 
ern " capital ;" they push from Hekla across the Sprengisandur 
and the centre of the island ; or they land at VopnafjorS, and 
traverse the north-east corner via the My-vatn to Htisavik. 

Por these and other beaten paths very scanty preparations are 
necessary. Tourists usually exceed in their impedimenta. One 
party brought out butter where " smjor " is a drug ; a second 
imported the Peter Halkett air-boat and wooden paddles, for 
crossing rivers three feet deep ;^ a third carried a medicine-chest, 
where air and water are perfection ; a fourth indulged himself 
with a fine patent reading-lamp, where diamond type is legible 
at the " noon of night " — a new edition of warming-pans to Cal- 
cutta, skates to Brazilian Bahia, and soldiers' pokers for stirring 

^ As will appear in the Journal, all the principal streams have ferries or some 
succedanea, and no Iceland guide is in the habit of exposing himself recklessly. 


wooden fires in Ashanti-land. The " Oxonian in Iceland " his 
advice was taken by another tourist party, who invested £20 in 
presents for the clergy and clergywomen, books, razors and pen- 
knives, scissors and needles, ribbons and silk kerchiefs : on 
return to Eeykjavik these inutilities fetched a dollar per pound. 
The only gifts required are silver specie ; if you make a present, 
you are a richard, and your bill, as all the world over, will be 
doubled. To the usual travelling-dress add fishermen's kit,^ not 
the dandy Mackintosh, which sops at once in the pelting and 
penetrating rain. The boots should meet the waterproof: Mr 
Metcalfe objects that with such gear you cannot walk, and that 
if your pony fall in one of the " giddy rapid rivers," you will be 
pounded to death by stones and water — but possibly you were 
not " born to be drowned." Perhaps the best wear for the nether 
man would be long waterproof stockings, not the wretched stuff 
of West-End shops, nor Iceland oilskins, which are never imper- 
meable, but Leith articles made for wear, drawn over common 
boots and overalls, fastened round the waist, and ready to be cast 
off in hot and sunny weather, or when preparing for a walk over 
lava. Horses and horse-gear, as well as tents and mattresses, 
will be described in another place. A common canteen, with 
iron plates and cups, lamp and methylated spirits, suffices for 
the cooking department. Cigars, tobacco and snuff, must be 
carried by those who are not likely to relish the island supply ; 
also tea and cognac, if coffee and Danish " brandy-wine " are not 
good enough. Sundry tins of potted meat and soup and a few 
pounds of biscuit are the only other necessaries, to which the 
traveller may add superfluities ad infinitum. The fishing-rods 
and nets, the battery, instruments and materials for writing and 
sketching, must depend upon the tourist. It is as well for him 
to bear in mind that he will suffer from stinging gnats and 
midges near the water as much as from thirst, the effect of ab- 
normal evaporation, upon the hills, and from dust and sand upon 
the paths called roads. 

Exploration in Iceland is a very different affair. In these 

1 Hunter & M 'Donald of Leith sell sou'-westers for 2s. ; outer and inner hose, at 
3s. 6d, and 2s. 6d. ; sailors' trousers, for 10s. ; stout oil coats, at 18s. 6d. ; and fisher- 
men's mitts, at Is. 3d. Foreman, also of Leith, supplies excellent boots for £2, 10s. 

262 ULTIMA thule; or, 

days when a country, apparently accessible, has not been opened, 
we may safely determine d priori that its difficulties and dangers 
have deterred travellers. Here the only parts worth the risk, 
the expense, and the hardships, are the masses of snowy highland 
thrown into one under the names of VatnajokuU and KlofajokuU, 
and the great desert, OdaSa Hraun, subtending their northern 
face. To investigate these " awfully romantic " haunts is a work 
of expenditure ; and tourists arriving in Iceland know nothing 
of what is wanted. A party of less than four, one being a Swiss 
or Fseroese mountaineer, would not be able to separate when 
necessary ; and each must have ten horses,^ as food, forage, and 
fuel have all to be carried. In the snow and the lava they will 
find nothing, and the tent will be the only home. Provisions 
would be represented by barrels of biscuits, bread, beef, and pork, 
with compressed vegetables, the maximum weight of each keg 
being 40 lbs. For drink, whisky or other spirits, the forbidden oil 
of whisky to be preferred if procurable. Patent fuel and pressed 
hay can travel in Iceland crates. At least one of the party 
should be able to shoe horses, so as not to rely upon the guide, 
who may perhaps prick two hoofs in one day. A change, or 
better still two changes, of irons for each nag, and four times the 
number of nails, must be the minimum : the lava tears off every- 
thing in the shape of shoes, and three hours without them lame the 
animal. The party might set out about early June in a schooner 
hired at Copenhagen, and land their impediments at Djupivogr. 
After buying ponies and engaging native servants, they would 
ascend the Fossardalr, strike the lakelets called Axarvatn and 
Likarvatn, ford the Jokullsa near its head, and penetrate into the 
great snow-fields. Or they might make the Lagarfljot at Hallorm- 
staSir, ferry over the river, establish a depot at ValthjofstaSir, or 
EgilstaSir, the highest farm up the valley, and march south. 
For the snowy range, the explorer needs all the " implements 

1 A very young traveller, Mr John Milne, F.G.S., has thus taken the author 
to task: " Fancj' yourself with forty horses, riding over snow bridges by the 
dozen." Is it then necessary to explain that the ponies are intended for the 
Oda'Sa Hraun, a tract about the size of Devonshire ? When Mr "Watts started on 
his second expedition, he declared it was ' * essential that the party should not 
be less than six," and he preferred eight, calculating that the expenses would 
not exceed £50 per man. 


of Alpine warfare," with the addition of a pair of inflatable 
boats, each carrying two — the reason will appear in the Journal. 
Ice-axe and spikes can be bought from Moseley, Henrietta 
Street, Covent Garden; and ropes from Buckingham, Broad 
Street, Bloornsbury : all these articles are also sold by J. S. Carter, 
295 Oxford Street, " under the patronage of the Alpine Club." 
Mr Whymper prefers the Manilla rope, though somewhat heavier 
than Italian hemp ; the former being 103, and the latter 93, oz. 
per 100 feet. They should not break with a lighter weight than 
2 tons, or 196 lbs. faUing 8 feet, or 168 lbs. falling 10. At least 
four 100-feet lengths^ should be taken; and the tyro, who had 
better stay at home, should learn from " Scrambles among the 
Alps" (London: Murray, 1871), the way to tie and not to tie. 
The knapsack and alpenstock must be light; Mr E. Glover, 
Honorary Secretary of the Wanderers' Club, kindly assisted the 
author in applying to the War Office, Pall Mall, for one of the 
" male bamboos," now used as cavalry lances : it proved, however, 
somewhat heavy. A cousin, Edward Burton, was also good 
enough to send for a pair of truviers, or Canadian snow-shoes ; 
but these rackets are not so useful as those of country make.^ 
Boots for riding, for walking, and for wading, are absolutely neces- 
sary. Binoculars, French grey spectacles, and sun-veils must 
not be forgotten, and when they come to grief, the face, especially 
the orbits, can be blackened, after the fasliion of the Cascade 

^ "Ropeing" is not a new thing, as many Alpine travellers seem to think. 
Pallson, when ascending Orsefa Jokull (1794), used " a rope about ten fathoms in 
length," and ** left a distance of two fathoms " between himself and his two com- 
panions. The latter is the modern average, the extremes being nine and fifteen. 
The author never heard of Icelanders objecting to this precaution, but " G. H. C," 
who in August 1, 1874, inspected the Kotlu-gja {Field, October 10, 1874), says that 
his two guides " apparently regarded such proceeding in the light of a capital 
joke, and, connecting the idea with that of horses {% taumi) at a sale, declared 
' they had never heard of a horse-fair on a Yokull.' " 

2 Every kind of snow requires its own shoe. Thus the Norwegian " skies " are 
very different from the Iceland ski, which resembles the Finn "ondrar," or 
" andrar." These articles are six, seven, and even twelve feet long, by five inches 
wide, in fact like large cask-staves. The front ends are a little bent up, and the 
sides are garnished with iron (saddlers') D's, through which leather thongs, or 
bands of willow-withes, are passed to secure the feet. Sometimes for facility of 
turning, one is made longer than the other, and the Lapps sole the right foot 
with hairy skin, so as to hold the snow in the back stroke. The alpenstock in 
Iceland is a bone handled staff, with a stout spike : the author never saw the 
stick shod with a wheel three inches broad, and safe against sinking, which is used 
on the Continent. 

264 ULTIMA thule; or, 

Eange Indians, with soot and grease — the explorer will look 
like an Ethiopian serenader, but there will be no one to see him. 
Watches and instruments must be in duplicate, or, better still, in 
triplicate. The map should be in four sections, guarded from 
the wet with copal varnish ; and skeleton pocket-maps save 
trouble. Mr Longman (Suggestions, etc.) supplies a copious list 
of explorer-tools : the author travelled with two pocket aneroids, a 
larger one left behind for comparison ; three B. P. thermometers ; 
Saussure's hygrometer; a portable clinometer; an areometre 
selon Cartier ; three thermometers (max. and min.) ; two hygro- 
meters, the usual wet and dry bulbs ;^ a prismatic compass; and 
Captain George's double pocket-sextant — almost all supplied by 
Mr Casella. A six-pocket waistcoat, with an inner pouch for 
money, is the handiest way to dispose of the aneroid, small field 
thermometer, compass, clinometer, silver-sheathed pencil, pen- 
knife, and strong magnifying glass. Mr Watts, a young law- 
student, of whom more presently, suggested for crevasse crossing 
a ladder twelve feet long, which, turned up at one end, might 
serve as a sledge : it reminded me of Mr Whymper's troubles. 
This, together with the bamboo alpenstock, the snow-shoes, lamp, 
spirits of wine, kegs, and other small necessaries, were left at 
Djupivogr for the benefit of future travellers. 

For the OdaSa Hraun, besides food, forage, and fuel, the 
explorer will require to carry water. The sun's heat is intense 
even after Syria; and dust-storms, when not laid by sullen, 
murky sheets of mist, or the torrrents discharged by angry, inky 
clouds, are bad as in Sind and the Panjab. Native attendants 
must be carefully rationed : they will live, at their own expense, 
on bread and butter, or rather on butter and bread ; but they will 
eat the best part of a sheep at the employer's, and they will 
drink, as the saying is, " any given quantity." On the Hraun, 
Eigby's " Express Eifle " may be useful in case of meeting a rein- 
deer, and pistols and bowie-knifes will encourage the guide to 
defy the Utilegumenn, Us hommes hors de la loi, with whom 

^ One of the thermometers was broken on the way to Edinburgh, and, curious 
to say, it could not be repaired in the capital of Scotland. Professor C. Vogt prefers 
to the Alpine Sympiesometer, the Barometre Compensee Metallique of M. Richard, 
Rue Fontaine du Roi, Paris : he used it in Iceland, and found it answer 


their superstitions people these solitudes. It is as well to carry 
glycerine for chafes and sunburns, poor man's plaister, and 
materials indispensable in case of accidents. The holsters should 
contain lucifers, and the coat -pockets metallic note -book and 
measuring tape, insect bottle with bran, and an old magazine 
for carrying plants to camp. 

The Eeykjavik guides will assuredly refuse to accompany such 
an expedition, and will declare that no Icelander can be persuaded 
to say yes. This, as will be seen, is not the fact. But raw men 
who take scanty interest in exploration, can hardly be expected 
to incur great risks. About the end of July, somewhat late in the 
year, students en vacance, speaking good Danish, a few words of 
English, French, and German, and perhaps a little " dog Latin," 
would be persuaded by three or four rixdollars per diem to 
become "vacation tourists," and something more. They must 
not be treated like common guides, and they also should be 
furnished with strong boots and bedding, for nights on the lava 
and in the snow. 

This long Introduction may conclude with a pleasant quotation 
from Prof. C. Vogt : " Plus je reporte mes souvenirs vers notre 
voyage accompli cet ete, plus je me sens attire vers I'lslande, 
dont la nature, eminemment sauvage, porte un cachet tout a 
fait particulier, et dont le sol volcanique offre encore tant de 
questions a resoudre." And the traveller's memory will in future 
days dw^ell curiously upon the past, when 

** The double twilights rose and fell 
About a land where nothing seemed the same, 
At noon or eve, as in the days gone by." 







Adieu, Edinburgh ! whether thou prefer to be titled Edina, 
Dun-Edin, Quebec of the Old World, the Grand Chartreuse of 
Presbyterianism, Modern Athens — a trifle too classical — or Auld 
Eeekie, good Norsk but foul, fuliginous, and over familiar. 
Many thanks for the civilities lavished, with one " base excep- 
tion," upon the traveller, who returns them in a host of good 
wishes. E.g., May the little lads and lasses that play ball and 
hop-scotch upon thy broad trottoirs presently rise, like the 
infantry of Ireland and the Cici of Istria, to the dignity of shoes 
and stockings ! May the odious paving-stones, which, under 
gigantic " busses," make thee the noisiest as thou art the most 
picturesque city in the empire, disappear before the steam- 
roller and the invention of thine own son Macadam : the former, 
after having long been used in the virgin forest of the Brazil, 
has at length found its way to London, and why should it not 
travel north ? May unclean wynd and impure close, worse than 
the Ghetto of Damascus, perish with krames and lucken-booths, 
and revive in broad way and long square ! May the railroad 
cars put in an appearance amongst the open hackneys, whose 
reckless driving, like that of the Trieste jarvey, seems to be con- 
nected in business with the undertaker ; and may the stands no 


longer be wholly deserted on the Scoto- Judaic Sabbath ! May there 
be some abatement and mitigation of the rule, " Let us all be un- 
happy on Sunday" — when man may drink "whusky," but "manna 
whustle" — that earthly and transitory equivalent, as the facetious 
Roman Catholic remarked, for the more durable, but haply the 
not more unendurable, Purgatory ! May thy beef lose its pestilent 
flavour of oil-cake, thy dames look less renfrogn^es, and thy 
sons unlearn the stock phrase which begins every answer " Eh ! 
nae ! " And lastly, St Giles grant that so hospitable a city may 
condescend to set on foot a club where the passing stranger, not 
only the " general commanding," can see his name enrolled for 
a month or two of membership, and no longer suffer from the 
outer darkness of utter clublessness ! 

The spring of 1872 was tardy and dreary, and though I had 
left London en route for Iceland shortly after mid-May, June 
began before the normal severity of a septentrional summer 
justified departure northwards. Travellers of the last generation 
were still subject to the sailing ship. Mr Chambers and his 
party are the first (1855) who had the chance of a " smoky 
Argosy," and the wild island-fishermen flocked to save a ship 
which appeared to be on fire, whilst the country people fled from 
the monster to their lava fastnesses. So in 1832 the first steamer 
passing the Shetlands coast, greatly excited the unsophisticated 
peasantry by suggesting witchcraft — I am not sure that some did 
not expect Thor to be on board. So, finally, Captain Trevithick's 
" puffing devil " was held by Cornishmen to be the gentleman 
in black; and French peasants shot at balloons, holding them 
to be monstrous birds. 

During the summer of 1872 there was embarrassment in the 
wealth of conveyance. The royal mail steamship (Danish 
Government) "Diana" touches at Granton^ and Lerwick once a 
month between March and ISTovember. The Norwegian steamer, 
" J6n SigurSsson," visited the chief port of the Shetlands with a 
certain irregularity, but the electric telegraph could always give 
timely warning. The " Yarrow " of Glasgow, belonging to Mr 
Slimon, ran during the season ; and Mr Eobert Buist of Edin- 

^ The Saturday Review (December 14, 1872) informs its readers that the Danish 
mail packet rims from Leith — which it does not. 


burgh chartered the " Queen " from the Aberdeen, Leith, and 
Clyde Shipping Company. We shall see them all in due time. 

Accompanied by my brother Stisted, I ran down to Granton 
betimes on June 4, along a road whose sides are coped walls, 
not rails and hedges, through a country still showing early 
spring, although some six weeks more advanced than Iceland. 
A couple of hours' delay gave us time to inspect Granton, and 
we owe it a debt of gratitude for saving us the mortification of 
ancient Grangemouth. Scotch tourists in Iceland compare its 
regularity with the irregularity of Eeykjavik : it is regular as a 
skeleton, this sketch-town, this prospectus, this programme-city 
with its three piers — the Mineral, the Middle, and the Break- 
water ; and with its square composed of two sides, the gaunt, 
grim hotel forming half the whole. The staple trade appears 
limited to blue-green barrels of the old " petreol," which now 
seem to travel all round the world.^ The central quay — whose 
promenaders, though no longer fined threepence, may not smoke 
— is remarkably good ; and wind-bound ships affect the harbour, 
because its bottom is soft mud, and because they are charged 
for shelter only one penny per ton during the whole stay, dis- 
charging cargo for sixpence instead of a shilling at Leith. The 
place is the property of the bold Buccleuch, who, bolder this 
time than even at the British Association, expended, ws Aeyovo-6, 
£1,200,000 for an annual consideration of £15,000. Despite its 
stout-hearted progenitor, it is a dull, young Jack of a settlement, 
all work and no play ; but we shall find it perfect civilisation, a 
little Paris in fact, on landing from Eeykjavik. 

At 1.30 P.M. we cast loose, or, to put it more poetically with 
a modern author, we assisted at the " chorus of sailors," who are 
supposed to sing — 

" The windlass ply, the cahle haul 
With a stamp and go, and a yeo-heave-oh ! " 

The little knot of friends— T. Wright of the 93d and D. Herbert 
of the Courant — wave farewell hats from the pier. It is an 

^ From most parts of the world, too, even from Hungary and Fiume, the casks 
are sent back to the United States, not broken up, but in bulk, because the heavy 
freight pays well where labour cannot be bought. 


exceptional day. The German Ocean wearing an imitation 
azure and gold robe, with the false air of a southern sea, treach- 
erously promises a yachting trip. The smoke of many steamers 
forms a thin buff canopy, far-stretching over the waste of pale 
sky-blue waters striped here and there with long bands of yet 
milkier hue — placidi pellacia ponti. The Firth of Forth some- 
what reminded me of the fair entrance to Tagus; only here, 
instead of obsolete windmills and huge palaces, we see red-tiled 
roofs and tall stacks, artificial fumaroles vomiting pitchy vapours 
— the various symbols of a very busy race. Along the populous 
shores of the Fifeish " kingdom " whose riant hills are loved by 
foxes that love lambs, where the Lomonds give a faiox-air of 
resemblance to the Bay of Bombay, rise successively Burnt- 
island, Kinghorn, Kirkcaldy, Wemyss, and Leven with gables 
facing the sea and fringing the main, " as lace embroiders the 
edges of a lady's petticoat." After yet a little time there will 
be a single line of habitation along what the late M. Alexandre 
Dumas, the inventor of the " Lapin Gaulois," called the " Fifth 
of the Fourth, or sea arm running up to Edinburgh," and its 
limits will be Dunbar and St Andrews. In the rear rises the 
lumpy blue sofa that formed Arthur's Seat, a local Cader Idris, 
very like, under certain aspects, the Istrian Monte Maggiore ; 
here the husband of Queen Guenevere is what Wallace and 
Auld Michael are to the rest of Scotland, 'Antar to Syria, the 
Devil or Julius Csesar to Brittany, and Ssemund-the-Learned- 
cum-Gretti-the-Strong to Iceland. The volcanic outcrop, famed 
by Huttonians, is flanked to the north by the basaltic Salisbury 
Crags, whose billows of stone I had last seen in the limestone 
cliffs of Marmartin or Dinha (vide Unexplored Syria) ; and a thin 
white thread at the base denotes the " Eadical Eoad " (to Euin), 
round which the ragged ruffians and rascals run. 

And so we steam past Inchkeith ; here a tall lighthouse is 
flanked seawards by a pile of buildings which would have been 
better sheltered on the other side, and which ought to be a mass 
of batteries like Gibraltar. We cannot but remark the utterly 
defenceless state of the northern capital, which lies literally at 
the mercy of a single ironclad, commanded by any Paul Jones. 
But happily in these days we battle with gold not with steel ; 


we arbitrate instead of fighting. Otherwise we might be tempted 
to propose torpedo stations, iron-rivetted turrets, and other appli- 
ances of an art which the policy of the last five years has made 
utterly antiquated, not to say barbarous. The Westminster 
players of 1872 grumble — 

** Ah ! minime refert quid sentiat Anglia ! Totam 
Mutandis sese mercibus ilia dedit. 
Pacis amans quovis pretio, maris arbitra quondam 
Nunc ipsa externo pendet ab arbitrio — " 

and grumble in vain.^ However, " we have heard about that 
before." We have also heard of yon quaint pyramid on the 
starboard bow, concerning which Mr Henderson says (i. 36), 
" The term ' Law ' is still applied to many hills in Scotland, as 
' Largo-Law,' and so forth." But the verbal resemblance to the 
natural Logbergs (law-mounts) of Iceland,^ Orkneys, and Shet- 
lands, corresponding with the artificial moot-hills of Scotland, 
is a trivial accident which has caused a philological stumble. 
" Law " is simply the Anglo-Saxon Hltew or Hlaw, primarily 
a low hill, secondarily a tumulus, cairn, or sepulchral burrow 
(Bearw or Bearo), heaped over the dead, as Lud-low the Low of 
Lude. Berwick-Law, though shaped very like a Logberg, means 
only Berwick Hill. Farther east is the Bass, " sea-rock im- 
mense," northwards steep-to apparently the rule of the northern 
coast and the Orkneys, a broad-shouldered and misshapen stack 
rising, like Ailsa Craig, sheer from the sea, and now very far 
from being the " terror of navigators." 

During dinner, at the primitive and Viennese hour of four P.M., 
we had passed Fifeness, alias the East Neuk of Fife, not our 
" nook," an indention, but the Norsk Hnjiikr or Hniikr, a knoll ; 
the high, lone hill, like Arthur's Seat, occupies a long, blue tongue, 
which projects a perilous reef some ten miles out to sea. The 
Firth of Tay — "firth," from FjorS, is right; " frith," from Fretum, 

^ I need hardly remark that this was written before the glorious days of Feb- 
ruary 1874, when the English nation, centuries ahead of Ireland, Scotland, and 
Wales, by one of the noblest constitutional revolutions known to its history, 
buried that felo-de-se, the Radical Cabinet, and pulled down its programme Dis- 
establishment, Retrenchment, and Non-intervention, the latest modification of 
Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, and — Death. 

2 We have seen that in Iceland the Logberg, or Hill of Laws, was confined to the 


is wrong — with its many brethren, are foretastes of Iceland and 
Norway ; the huge gapes of dwarfish bodies, embouchures whose 
breadth promises a length of many hundred miles, which the 
shortness of the watershed reduces to scores. Such are the 
estuaries and giant mouths of the Gaboon, and, indeed, of all the 
South African rivers save five — the Congo and Zambezi, the 
Eufiji, the Limpopo, and the Orange ; and we need hardly go so 
far to study the feature, as the Mersey of Mercia is a first-rate 
specimen. We peer from a distance at the " Geneva of the 
North" {jproh pudor !) , the Faridon d^, the Donum Dei, famed in 
the days of terror as the abode of the " reverend citizen Douglas," 
where of late the mob-caps have had a famous bout of " clapper- 
clawing " with the bonnets of bonnie Dundee ; and where, 
according to its own Advertiser, " there are heathens who read 
newspapers during the Christmas holidays." 

Broad daylight blazed till ten P.M. ; but fog, probably born of 
smoke, and marring the effect of the pretty sail, obscured the 
outlines of Fowls' Heugh, in Kincardineshire. These are cliffs 
some 300 to 400 feet high, where adventurous cragsmen still risk 
broken necks to plunder birds' nests. The Fseroese hold that 
the unfortunates falling from great heights burst in mid air ; and 
it has been remarked by those who have had ample opportunities 
of induction, that the many who have thrown themselves off the 
London monument wear placid countenances, showing none of 
the horrors of agonising death. It is possible, then, that the 
sudden shock may cause asphyxia and apoplexy — we will hope 
that it does. 

Before "turning in," as the wheezing of the wind and the 
pelting showers of blacks suggest, let us shortly survey the ship 
and our shipmates, a process which travellers apparently despise 
as unworthy of their high-mightinesses. The " Queen," Captain 
William Eeid, is a crowded little thing of 280 tons register ; a 
startling contrast to Messrs Papayanni's large and comfortable 
" Arkadia," Captain Peter Blacklock, in which I last sailed as 
the passenger from Bayrut. She is licensed to carry forty-seven 
miserables; her old-fashioned engines half-consume twenty-three 
tons of coal in twenty-four hours; and her horse-power (230) makes 
her bore through the water at the maximum rate of nine knots. 


She has no bath ; washing is at a discount amongst these north- 
erners; her offices are truly awful; and the berths are apparently 
built for Arctic exploration, or for the accommodation of General 
Tom Thumb and Commodore Nutt: the close vapours would gener- 
ate nightmare, but, happily, only the stewards sleep in the main 
cabin. The food is profuse but primitive — giant tureens of oleagin- 
ous soup; fish which cannot be kept quite fresh ; huge junks of meat, 
of course carved at table ; mutton chops — not cutlets — all fat, or 
rather tallow; vast slices of "polonies," lard-speckled, and very like 
the puddings of sheep's blood farther north; marbled potatoes; 
graveolent cabbages; parsnips and carrots, hateful to Banting; poor 
bread; good hard biscuit; excellent butter, much enjoyed by Ice- 
landers; rice puddings, and huge pies of rhubarb, locally called 
overring or southern wood; tea which resembles nothing that 
fancy can suggest; coffee much resembling a watery decoction of 
senna ; excellent whisky ; the usual brandy, not right " Nantz," 
and gin clean forgotten. 

The passengers are all first-class, and those who should be 
seconds pay somewhat less than the usual return fare, £6 — board 
not included. In these lands, the three E's are the great levellers ; 
and for a certain roughness, moral as well as physical, we need 
hardly visit Canada or the Far West ; our Lowlander, emphati- 
cally opposed to the Highlander, supplies us with an admirable 
specimen. Many of the travellers are bound northwards on 
business, and their " Gentlemen, who says feesh ?" reminds us 
of Mr Punch and his " pudden." There is a laird of the parts 
about Aberdeen, accompanied by an intelligent Scotch baiHff; 
an army man. Major B., and his brother-in-law, Mr S. ; a navy 
man. Captain H., much addicted to fishing; another Piscator, 
popularly known as Johnny B. ; and a missionary, who will not 
walk the quarter-deck on " the Sabbath." He offers a tract to 
our parson — we can longer quote amongst British proverbs, 
"Coals to Newcastle" — the Eev. E. M. Spence, originally of 
Kirkwall, Orkneys, and now holding the manse of Arbuthnott. 
I must name him ; his local knowledge was most valuable to all 
on board ; it was given freely and without stint, and after his 
" parson's week," he was kind enough to correspond with me 

during my stay in Iceland. Kirkwall has produced much " good 
VOL. L s 

274 ULTIMA thule; or, 

company," but none better than the Keverend Spence. There is 
a stewardess, who stoutly cleared for herself the ladies' saloon. 
The steward and his mate are of the type often seen on board 
the " leather-breeches mob of steamers " — an epithet, mind, which 
I do not apply to the " Queen." They are fond of bumping you, 
of spilling the soup, of putting unclean towels upon your open 
books, of carrying a host of articles in one hand, of charging the 
smallest and meanest items, and of being peculiarly civil on the 
last day. The captain soon merits the general description of a 
"regular brick;" he has no pilot who knows coast or course, 
not a soul on board has ever been in Iceland, yet he accepts all 
responsibility like a man and a seaman ; and he will spend on 
deck two successive nights of fog and wet. Finally, although 
the " Queen " is not one of the floating coffins which have roused 
Mr Plimsoll's just indignation, she was sent out in a peculiarly 
reckless way,^ and without so good a sailor as Captain Eeid, she 
— and we — ran the very best chances of coming to a bad end. 

June 5. 
During the few dark, or rather chiaro-oscuro, hours, we ran 
along the coast north-east and by east, turning the great shoulder 
north of Aberdeen. As the raw and rainy morning dawned, 
high loomed on the port bows Duncansby, popularly written 
Duncansbay, Head, whose castellated and ruin-shaped rocks of 
yellow-brown sandstone, streaked with white layers of guano, 
were new features to us ; much resembling in form, though not 
in formation, what Iceland will show. The steep and frowning 
headland, sentinelled by needles, the Shetland "drongs," the 

^ After many years of the "quousquetaoidem?" state of mind, my astonishment at 
the amount of legal murder authorised and sanctioned by authority in England, 
and my wonder that abuses so hideous did not become a public scandal, have been 
explained away by the sacrifices which the patriotic Mr PlimsoU found necessary 
before he could obtain a hearing. The manner in which his small inaccuracies of 
detail have been made to obscure the whole "palpitant question," the counter- 
charges of sensationalism and ultra-philanthropy which have been brought to 
refute the main charge, and the notable worship of Mammon and vested abuses, 
are hardly encouraging to the optimist's view of "progress." But the day is now 
done, let us hope, when crews of "murdered men " can be sent to sea in floating 
coffins insured at thrice their value. The simplest preventive would be an order 
that every consul should report all flagrant cases, with the express understanding, 
however, that he should not be punished nor be made to suffer for doing his "un- 
pleasant duty." 


Fseroese " drengr," and the Icelandic " drangar," bluff to the sea, 
and sloping backwards in long brown-green dorsa, is lit up by a 
sickly, pallid sun, which picks out of the dark curtain the snowy 
wings of myriad sea-fowl. The parallel strata supply the cele- 
brated flags of Caithness, and the softer parts are readily hol- 
lowed into " Devil's nostrils," Helyers,^ or sea- washed caverns, 
with pyramidal entrances which cause frequent cliff-falls. 

Beyond this point the coast is fretted into shallow bays of 
good soil, fronted by sandy beaches of dwarf proportions, and here 
and there by a small scaur ; the chord is also pierced by long 
winding passages, incipient Fjords, whose vistas end in yellow 
shingle. These pasture-lands of Caithness are scattered with 
cots, " infield " and " outfield," but we look in vain for copse, 
wood, or forest. As a northern writer said some hundred years 
ago, " A single tree does not appear that may afford shelter to 
friendship and innocence " (why innocence ?), and fuel must be 
supplied by wreck-wood and drift-wood, by peat and wrack, by 
cattle chips and bones. The cause is one from the Prairies and 
the Pampas to the Carso of Trieste, and the rich uplands of 
Spain, Syria, and the Hauran. Be the soil ever so fertile, its 
growth, without the protection of walls or depressions in the 
level, is soon blasted by the furious cutting winds. The experi- 
ment of planting pitch-pines {Pinus ^icea and Finns dbies) was 
tried by Governor Thodal of Iceland, but the trunks never rose 
above two feet from the ground, and, like Dean Swift, they died 
at the head. The scene already suggests Thule without its 
Jokulls ; scattered byes, greenish tijuns (" towns," or home-fields), 
brown distances, low stone walls, and big bistre-coloured cliffs, 
black below where bathed by the flowing tide. 

Behind Duncansbay Ness^ we are shown the site of John o' 
Groat's House ; there is no need to walk there, as a stage coach 
now runs along the fine broad road from the " (ex-) Herring Capital 

^ Found in St Helier, and written " Helyer " in the Scoto-Scandinavian islands. 
Evidently the Icelandic Hellir {plur. Hellar), a cave, common in local words, e.g.^ 
Hellis-menn, the cave-men ; it is akin to Hallr, a slope, a boulder, much used for 
proper names of men and women, as Hall-dor (Hall thor) and Hall-dora (Cleasby). 

2 John Brand (A Brief Description of Orkney, etc., Edinburgh, 1701, Pin- 
kerton, iii. 731) writes Dungisbie Head, and Duncan's Bay. The Scandinavian 
form of Duncansbay Head is Dungalsn^pa. 

276 ULTIMA thule; or, 

of the North" (Wick). The old " Norwegian," as some miscall 
him, left Holland with Malcolm Cavin, and brought to Caithness 
a Latin letter from James II. of Scotland recommending him to 
the northern lieges. It is still a disputed point whether the 
Grotes of the Orkneys are the original stock, or drifted there 
through Scotland. Strangers are taken to the semi-historical 
ruin, a one-storied octagon, with its eight windows, which ap- 
peased fraternal wrath — if, at least, there were eight, and not two 
brothers. It is supposed to . be a banqueting-hall, as there are 
no bedrooms, and only the photograph for sale at Wick, pro- 
bably taken from some apocryphal sketch, caps it with a small 
look-out. A dull grey barn is here fronted by a dwarf sand- 
streak, up which fisher boats are drawn, whilst others, with 
stained sails, scud and toss over the unquiet waters. The colour- 
ing matter is peat. In the Bahia de S. Salvador (Brazil) the 
Pia9aba palm supplies the tannin-dye, while Venice and Dalma- 
tia assert superior claims to art by rough pictures in coloured 
earths and oil. The object is everywhere the same — to make the 
canvas last. 

And now with the rock ledges called " Pentland Skerries " 
on our right, we dance over the tide-rip of the terrible " Pight- 
land Firth," ^ which has become classical in the north, like 
Pharaoh's Ford in the Gulf of Suez, Mysing, the sea-king, 
according to the Elder Edda, ended the " Peace of FroSi," by 
slaying FroSi, king of Denmark ; he also captured the clattering 
hand-quern Grotti, and the two prescient damsels Fenia and 
Menia. The victor ground white salt in the vanquished ships 
imtil they sank in Pentland Firth, causing the main to become 
briny : there has ever since been a vortex where the sea falls 
into the " well" or mill's eye, and the roar of the ocean is the 
grinding of the quern.^ And all this folk-lore because at times 
storm-wind meets tide running some five to seven knots an hour 
with "waws" and "swelchies," causing sore grief to many a gallant 
ship. Yet there are men still young — Colonel Burroughs of the 
93d (Sutherland) Highlanders is one — who habitually crossed 
this firth in open boats. 

1 Pettlands FjorS in Icelandic from Pight-land or Pict-land. 

^ For other interesting details see the Grottasongr, or Lay of Grotti. 


We had now turned the north-eastern end of Scotland, where 
Ben Dorrery, a blue saddleback somewhat crater-shaped, rose 
supreme ; and where Foss or cascade water, anciently Fors, drain- 
ing Lake Lunnery, suggested Scandinavia. We presently passed 
the Paps of Caithness, and admired the grand profile of classical 
Dunnet Head,^ whose flanks are horizontally streaked with broad 
golden patches, whilst a Cockney gun of our party brought out a 
swarming colony of birds from their cliffy homes. Behind it lay 
Thurso (Thjorsa, or Bull water), built with the dull grey stone of 
Bath, not the picturesque red of Edinburgh, nestling in the usual 
fertile bight, shallow withal and open to the northern ocean. 
We halted for the first and last time off Holburn Head to take 
in and deal out letters. Beyond it the picturesque Sutherland 
Highlands ended in a long line of bluffs remarkably quoin- 
shaped. Dim in the slaty and stormy sky rose Farout Head, not 
unlike the Elephant Mountain, the classical Mons Felix that 
outlies the murderous Somali Coast. Ten miles west of it rose 

1 The old Cape Orcas, derived, as has been said, from Latin Orca, Gaelic 
Orcc or Ore, and Icelandic Orkn — ^^ Delphinus orca,"" a dog -seal — the 
addition of -ey, an isle, makes Orkney. This point is the Ptolemeian Tarbetum 
or "Taruedum, quod et Orcas promontorium, finis Scotife dicitur," and unduly 
placed in N. lat. 60° 15', and long, 31° 20' (lib. i., cap, 3). The word derives 
from the Gaelic Tarbet, a drag, a portage, a haul -over, common names in 
Scoto-Scandinavia, and equivalent to the Icelandic EiS (aith). It lies only six 
miles from the nearest of the archipelago, which Pomponius Mela called Orcades, 
evidently a Roman corruption of the indigenous "Orkneyjar," the Irish Innsi 
Orcc, and the Inis Tore of Ossian, Fordun's " Scotichronicon " (ii. 2) calls 
the Orkneys " Insulse Pomonise;" and Buchanan says, *' Orcadum maxima multis 
veterum Pomona vocatur," As 'poma are not abundant there, the name has 
caused considerable argumentation. In the " Societe Poyale des Antiquaires du 
Nord" (1845-49), and in the "Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scot- 
land" (Edinburgh, Neill, 1852), Professor A, Munch, of Christiania, contributes 
an able paper, " Why is the Mainland of Orkney called Pomona?" Before his 
time Dr (D.D.) George Barry, in an excellent book, "History of the Orkney 
Islands" (London, Longmans, 1805) had derived Pomona from "pou," small (query, 
"Bu," asettlement, or "bol," corrupted to " bull, " a house ?), and Mon, Patria ; also 
from the Norsk terms signifying "Great-land." Professor Munch quotes Torfseus 
(Oread., p. 5), "Pomona ... a Julio polyhistore Diutina appellatur." 
Solinus Polyhistor, facetiously known as Plinii Simius, says of Thule (chap, xxv.), 
* ' Ab Orcadibus Thyle usque quinque dierum et noctium navigatio. Sed Thule 
larga et diutina pomona copiosa est " (Thule is a fertile country, and plentifully 
productive of long-lasting corn). He would read the evidently mutilated text, 
" Sed Thule larga et Diutina pomona copiosa est," or " Sed Thule larga et diutina, 
Pomona copiosa est," and he finds that " Diutina ergb Pomona — ab esse ad posse 
valet consequentia. " But it is over ingenious to account by the error of a text 
for a popular term four hundred years old, e. g. , 

* ' Our rare Pomonia, which the natives style 
The Mainland." 


the north-western Land's End of Scotland, a mere hummock low 
down upon the horizon. This was Cape Wrath, which some 
understand literally, whilst others derive it from "Kath," a conical 
hill, or a fortified place : it is evidently Cape Hvarf, a common 
name, as Hvarven, near Bergen, for a sudden turn of coast. "You 
should see it in December," said the steward, when we were dis- 
posed to deride its anger: he had doubled it in a casual vessel from 
Liverpool to Dundee carrying sugar and palm oil. 

And now it is time to cast a look starboard ways from Dun- 
cansbay Head. The first feature is Stroma Island (Straumsey, 
corrupted to Stromey), bluff to the north-west, and sloping gra- 
dually to the south-eastern sea; the inner sound is a narrow 
channel, lately rendered safe by a red beacon. The scrap of land — 
a small item of the two hundred inhabited which form the British 
archipelago — is politically included in Caithness, but, popularly 
speaking, it belongs to the Scoto-Scandinavian race, the fourth 
great family of Great Britain, utterly dissimilar from the jN'orman 
of the Channel Islands, the Kelt, and the Anglo- Kelt. Their 
neighbours talk of the " poor sneaks of Stroma," and these retort 
by the opprobrious term " ferrie-loupers." The memory of many 
a broken head and bloody fray in bygone day is preserved in the 
couplet — 

** Caithness cabes {i.e., ticks), lift up your heads, 
And let the Orkney sheep go by !" 

How soon will telegrams and steamers — there is a daily mail 
between Thurso and Stromness — cause these local differences to 
share the fate of the national garb ? 

Behind Stroma, and towering over it in the purple grey cloud, 
is South Eonaldshaw, or Eonaldsha, in whose corrupted and 
degraded name we can hardly trace the pure and classical Norsk 
termination.^ Properly Eonansey, from St Eonan, Eingan, or 

^ To quote the Dean's English, "it is part of a (Radical ?) movement to help 
forward the obliteration of all trace of the derivation and history of words:" as 
such it may be highly recommended to the " Japs." The Icelandic or pure Scan- 
dinavian form, simple and compound, is ey (gen. and plur. eyjar) ; each vowel 
being pronounced distinct, and not confounded, as some foreigners do, with the 
German o or the French eu. Ey is the Keltic *'hy," as found in the classical 
Hy Brazile, the mysterious island west of Galway, and so called during centuries 
before the real Brazil was discovered. Again the form appears in " Ireland's Eye, " 
which Cockneys pronounce Ireland's H'eye ; the pure Irish form is I (O'Brien's 
Irish-English Dictionary, sub voce), or aoi, an island or region, which that learned 


Ninian, it still preserves an old-world flavour. Till the last 
tliirty years wreckers were rife : it was held " best to let saut 
water gang its gate;" in other words, uncanny, as we find in 
" The Pirate," to save a drowning sailor. Mariners lost all 
their rights when keel once touched sand; whatever was cast 
ashore became the lawful property of the people ; Earl Patrick, 
who now is cursed at Scalloway because " he hung the Shet- 
landers," was blessed for his wise laws against all that would help 
ships amongst the breakers ; a wreck was a sight to " wile the 
parson out of his pulpit in the middle of his preaching," and the 
blessing upon the shore was coupled with a wish that the Lord 
would send " mair wrecks ere winter." Men still remember the 
old Orcadian minister's prayer : " Lord, I wish not ill to my 
neighbours, but if wrecks be going, remember Thy poor island of 
Sandey!"^ The clergy feared to offend those sturdy pagans, 
their " little ones," by denouncing from the pulpit what the de- 
voutest held to be a " dispensation of Providence." A pious 
fraud began by excommunicating all who broke the Sabbath in 
such Satan's work, and the course of time did the rest. 

But old ideas do not readily die. Lately a farmer in Orphir 
parish (Or-fjara, or Or-fyri, " a reef covered by high tide "), having 
lost many head of cattle by " witching," applied to the " spae- 
wife," who prescribed the sacrifice of a bull-calf, probably by 
cremation, to Baal. The practice is, of course, kept secret, yet 
the best possible authority at Kirkwall told me he had reason to 
suspect that such offerings to the sun-god are by no means singu- 
lar. The late pugnacious Sir James Simpson (Archaeological 
Essays) also heard of a cow being buried alive as a sacrifice to 
the spirit of murrain. The Yule bonfires and the games of ball 
at that season were also in honour of the greater light. 

Beyond South Eonaldshaw we had a fair profile view of Hoy 
(=Ha-ey, high isle), a three-hilled, long, narrow parallelogram 

writer derives (?) from the Hebrew '* ai, " insula, regio, provincia. " The Norwegian 
<5y, the Danish 6e, the Swedish o, the Anglo-Saxon eg (-land), and the German 
aue, are found in ey-ot and Leas-ow, Chels-ea and Batters-ea ; and whilst the 
Orkneys corrupt it wofully, we retain it pure in Cherts-ey, Aldern-ey, and 
Orkn-ey" (Cleasby). Munch (Ant. du Nord) has corrected the error of Webster, 
who derives " island " from ea or ey, water (! ), and land. It is simply ey-landy 
'* terra insularis," 
^ Properly Sand-eiS, or Sand-aith, a sand-isthmus connecting two headlands. 


which took us some five hours to pass. The fierce south-westers 
which scoop and scallop western Scotland, like western Iceland 
and the occidental coasts of north Europe generally, render 
cultivation impossible except on the leeward side, where the 
" links " are.^ En passant, it may be observed that the island 
capitals between Caithness and Iceland, as Stornoway of the 
Hebrides, Kirkwall of the Orkneys, Lerwick of the Shetlands, 
and Thorshaven of the Tseroes, are all built upon the eastern 
shore. We strained eyes in vain to sight the position of Walter 
Scott's " Dwarfie Stones," so called per antiphrasin, says Brand ; 
and equally vain was the " search for the great carbuncle " of 
Ward Hill, now invisible as the gem of the Diamond Eock, and 
probably never seen save by the eyes of faith. I heard of the 
same mysterious light in the far Gaboon Eiver. We were 
more fortunate with the Hill of Hoy, the tallest part of the 
dorsum (1500 feet), whose " Old Man," which farther north 
would be called a " witch finger," appeared first a dot, then a 
column, and lastly a dome upon the summit of a huge cathedral. 
It is of the " Old Eed," a pale, unfossiliferous sandstone, the 
normal material of the western mainland, though some describe 
it as a slaty formation supported by a base of granite, which 
also crops out near Stromness. According to Bleau, the mid- 
night sun can be seen from it in midsummer ; Dr Wallace quali- 
fies the statement by opining that the true solar body cannot be 
visible, but only its image refracted through some watery cloud 
upon the horizon. The last glimpse of Hoy was Eonay Head, 
a glorious bluff at least 1000 feet high, and beyond it lay nought 
save pontus et aer. 

I will here step out of the order of my journey, which would 
more wisely have been reversed. To begin with Iceland is to 
begin at the end, neglecting the various steps and stages of 
Orkneys, Shetlands, and Fseroes, whilst to describe the climax 
and its anti-climax, would be utterly uninteresting and bathetic. 
My three days (Sept. 10, 11, and 12) at the Church-bay (Kirkju- 
vagr, vogr, vad, waw, wall) produced some results, and these 
shall be briefly recorded. 

1 (( 

Links, " from Lykkur, locked or closed fields. 


The good ship " St Magnus " ran up " the String " to Kirkwall 
Koads, and landed me after a ten hours' passage from Lerwick. 
My first care was to send my introductory letter, the gift of Mr 
Gatherer, to Mr George Petrie, well known in the anthropological 
world. He kindly led me to the little museum, which, like that 
of Lerwick, is far behind the order and neatness of Eeykjavik. 
The collection contains good specimens of netting needles, cut 
out of rein and red deer bone : the former animal extended to the 
Orkneys, as broken bones have been found in the burghs, and sug- 
gest that they were continental. There were natural stone knives, 
looking as if shaped by art — the Brazil shows heaps of celts equally 
deceptive — pots of micaceous schist and steatite from Shetland ; 
combs conjectured to have been used for ornamenting pottery ; a 
two-handed scraper of whale's bone ; specimens of " bysmers" and 
" pundlers," wooden bars used as steelyards, the former three, and 
the latter seven, feet long : they carried the Norwegian weights, 
"bysmars" and "lispunds,"^ which took root in the Shetlands. 
I noticed the huge Varangian ^ fibulse and torques; the querns 
still common amongst the islandry ; red " keel " or pigment of 
silicious hsematite, showing that even the artless dames did not 
ignore the art of rouge; rude beads of bone and clay; and a human 
skull with four rabbit teeth, possibly bevelled by the " bursten 
bigg," coarse roasted here or barley, even as the Guanches of 
Tenerife ground down their molars with parched grain. My guide 
showed me his ingenious plan for " squeezes," and making casts 
of spearheads and similar articles by means of warmed gutta- 
percha applied to the stone, and lastly cooled in water. 

Scapa (SkalpeiS) Brock, the highly interesting ruin discovered 
by Mr Petrie in 1870, was of course visited. At the Earl's 

^ " Bismari " in Icelandic is a steelyard, and " bismara-pund " a kind of lb. 
The Norwegian Bismerpund is = 12 Skaalpunds (100 : 110 Eng. avoird.), and the 
Lispund is = 16 Skaalpunds. The Icelandic word is LIfspund, from Lifl, and = 
18 lbs. Scots (Cleasby). 

2 Varangian, Icel. Yieringi, from Varar, a pledge (al. Wehr, Vser, ware or active 
defence) : the Vseringjar of the Sagas, the Kussian Varseger, the Bapdyyoc of 
Byzantine historians, and our "Warings, popularly known through Gibbon and 
"Count Robert of Paris," formed the Scandinavian bodyguard of the Eastern 
empire. These battle-axe men were at first Northmen from Kiew in a.d. 902, 
under the Emperor Alexis, and successively Danes, Norwegians, and Icelanders 
(Cleasby and Mallet : Mr Blackwall, note J, p. 193, attempts and fails to correct 
Gibbon). What possessed Mr A. Mounsey (Journal through the Caucasus and 
Persia) to derive " Eeringi " (Frank)_from Yarangian ? 


Castle, whose approach is choked with trees like that of 
Baalbek, I remarked that the kitchen and the banqueting-room 
had false and shouldered arches, which might have been bor- 
rowed from the Hauran. We pitied poor St Magnus the Martyr 
for the insult lately offered to him in the shape of a wretched 
court-house — a similar affront has been inflicted upon York 
Miuster. The old cathedral, grand in its rude and ponderous 
!N'orman-Gothic, is made remarkable by the red sandstone mixed 
with whitey-grey calcaires : it shares with St Mungo the honour 
of being the finest remains of Catholicism in the north, and it is 
unduly neglected by strangers. The view from that eye-sore, the 
stunted spire, is charming. North-west stretches the Bay of 
Firth, famed for oysters, backed by the dark heights of Eousay 
(Hrolfsey) ; while north-east lies Shapinshay (Hjapandisey),^ 
smiling with corn and white houses, with the dark hillocks of 
low-lying Edey in the distance. Amongst the smaller islets 
may be mentioned castled Damsey (Daminsey) ; the Holm 
of Quanterness ; Thieves' Holm (Thjofaholmr), where robbei's, 
who were supposed not to swim, found a safe prison, and often, 
too, a long home ; and the whale-back of Gairsey (Gareksey), 
with the stronghold of that Sveinn (Sweyn), who lost his pirate 
life when attacking Dublin — the Vikings seem ever to have 
preferred these fragments of earth where the sea, their favourite 
element, was never far distant. Nearer and rising from the 
reniform " Mainland," alias Pomona, by the Sagas called Hrossey 
or Horse Island, is Wideford (HvitfjorS) Hill, backed by the 
Oyce or Peerie Sea. The ground-wave is dark with bloomless 
gorse, and ruddy with fading heath, whilst higher still 

** Earth clad in russet scorns the lively green." 

It is a progressive country : middle-aged men have shot grouse 
in the mosses near Kirkwall where now the fields bear corn. 
The peasant's father despaired of growing grass : the son ploughs 
the bog, builds dry walls with the larger stones that cumber the 
surface, cuts deep drains, and top-dresses with sand and lime. 
Hands, however, are wanting ; the fisheries bring more money 

^ Popularly but erroneously derived from Kolbeinsey or Kaupmannsey, ' ' Chap- 
man's Isle." 











~ ," ■ / .■'■ 












than agriculture ; and the good landlord will not part with his 
slow old tenantry, because he cannot replace it. 

Two monuments in the cathedral are peculiarly interesting, 
and partly relieve the desert and dismal appearance of all 
Catholic places of worship converted to a " purer creed." The 
first is that of the Irving family, true Orcadians, who never 
changed their name since a.d. 1361, and one lies murdered in 
A.D. 1614. Mr Petrie, the discoverer, communicated with the 
great Washington of that ilk, who replied courteously, forwarding 
at the same time a presentation copy of his works. Mr Pliny 
Miles (NorSurfari) and others of his class are fond of claiming 
all distinguished names for their own country; for instance, 
Snorri Thorfinnsson, " the first Yankee ^ on record," is the fore- 
father of Pinn Magnlisson and Thorvaldsen, whilst Captain 
Ericsson is the descendant of Eric the Eed. It would be easier 
far to trace all American celebrities directly to Europe, and many 
of them would not be sorry to see the process thus inverted. 

The second tomb, much more interesting to me than those 
of King Hakon and Maid Margaret, is the cenotaph of Dr 
Baikie, RN., designed and inscribed, I believe, by Sir Henry 
Dryden: certainly both design and inscription deserve scanty 
credit. Not a word about the original profession of poor 
'' Hammie," as he was called by a host of friends. And why 
should it be a cenotaph ? Why bequeath the explorer's bones 
to the ignoble " European's grave," S'a Leone ? Worse still, the 
journals, once so interesting, have been allowed to lie in ob- 
scurity for want of an editor, and a decade in these days takes 
away almost all the value of an African traveller's diary. Dr 
Baikie is supposed also to have left a valuable collection of 
Nigerian vocabularies — these, at least, might be forwarded to the 
Anthropological Institute. I can only express a hope that the 
bereaved family will bestir itself before the cold shade of ob- 
livion obscures the memory of a heroic name. 

After a long spell of cloudy, misty, and rainy weather, Thurs- 
day, the 12th September, broke fine, with a clear sun and a high 
rollicking wind which swept the rolling surface-water like a 

^ Mr Blackwall (p. 257) more modestly says the "first European." 

284 ULTIMA thule; or, 

broom. In these islands, July, August, and September are 
frequently wet ; in October the " peerie simmer " ^ of St Martin, 
the Indian summer of the United States, sets in and gladdens 
the eye of man before the glooms of winter round off the year. 
Mr Petrie proposed himself as guide to Wideford Hill, Ingis- 
howe (Howe of Inga), Maes Howe, Stennis, Borgar (BriiargarSr), 
and Stromness — I need hardly tell the pleasure with which his 
kind offer was accepted. He has not only admirably described 
these and other antiquities (especially in his " Notice of the 
Brochs, or Large Eound Towers of Orkney," etc., read before the 
S.N.A., June 11, 1866) : he has done far more important work 
by converting popular insouciance, and even ridicule, into a 
something of his own enthusiasm. Nor should I forget to say 
that in this great task he has been ably and efficiently supported 
by the landlord-class, amongst whom Colonel Balfour of Balfour 
Castle and Ternaby (Tjarnabaer), the owner of Maes Howe, has 
especially distinguished himself "We shall now hope to have 
heard the last of such barbarism as breaking up the venerable 
" Odin's Stone " into building material. These acts are like the 
state of Uriconium, a national disgrace ; we only wish that Jarl 

Hakon had Mr M 's leg in the " Cashidawis," or "Warm 

Hose " — a fitting reward for those who justify the sneer — 

*' Quod non fecerunt Gothi 
Hoc fecerunt Scoti." 

It is also to be desired that the liberal proprietor of Maes Howe 
would take active steps to defend the highly interesting central 
chamber from the inclemency of the weather ; the barrow was 
opened in July 1861, and already the interior has suffered from 

The most interesting event of the day was the inspection of 
Maes Howe, which some one has lately suggested to be " simply 
a Norse fort." It would be mere impertinence to offer a general 

1 " Peerie - folk " means the fairies, laoth words evidently congeners of the 
Persian Pari or Peri. Grimm, an excellent authority, derives the French F^e, 
the Proven9al Fada, the Spanish Hada, and the Italian Fata, from the Latin 
Fatum — remarking that Fata and Fee have the same analogy as nata and nie, 
amata and aimee. In connection with "Simmer" or "Sea," "Peerie," mean- 
ing little, is by some deduced from the French "petit;" in the Shetlands it is 
further emphasised to Peerie- weerie-winkie (of a foal, etc.). 


description of this unique barrow after the studies of Mr Farrer 
(" Notice of Kunic Inscriptions discovered during Eecent Excava- 
tions in the Orkneys," made by James Farrer, M.P. ; printed for 
private circulation, 1862) ; lately popularised by Mr Fergusson 
in "Eude Stone Monuments." The three mortarless loculi of 
huge slabs and their closing stones reminded me so strongly of 
the miscalled " Tombs of the Kings," north of Jerusalem, that 
I felt once more in the " Holy Land." It is a glorious monu- 
ment of the great tomb-building race, or races whose animistic 
creed, the essence of fetichism, expresses itself in tent-tombs 
(chambered cairns) and cave -tombs (rock -cut chambers) upon 
the Siberian steppes, the Algerian plains, the Wiltshire downs, 
and the Scoto-Scandinavian islands. At Maes Howe we find 
all its characteristics — the stone circle which drove away the 
profane ; the long passage which keeps warm the cave or hut ; the 
vestibule for the funeral feast, and the various rooms for the dead 
to live in. And at the first sight of the Branch Eunes,^ otherwise 
called Palm Eunes, I remembered having seen a similar alphabet 
in northern Syria. 

A ride to Hums, of old Emesa (February 27, 1871), and a 
visit to my old friend the Nestorian Matran (Metropolitan) But- 
rus, introduced me to the alphabet known as El Mushajjar, or 
the branched, one of the many cyphers formerly and, for aught 
I know, still current amongst Semitic races. Eeturning to 
England, I sent a copy of it to the Anthropological Institute, in- 
tending to illustrate a paper which was reprinted in " Unex- 
plored Syria " (vol. ii., Appendix, p. 241) : unfortunately the 
copy was lost. 

According to the Matran's MS. there are two forms of El 
Mushajjar, one applied to Arabic, and the other to Pehlevi. 
Both are read from right to left, and the following is the Arabic 
form : 

^ The ordinary runes, I need hardly say, have been shown by Rafn to be de- 
rived from archaic Greek ; and probably from coins which found their way north 
during the iirst centuries of our era. 



No. I. 

^^■f r^r thr 

t h 

w h d e: b a 


tshr^ sfa's nmlk 

The adjoined is the Pehlevi. 

No. II. 

Ik i t h zwhdgba 


t slirAr s fa'snm 

No. III. is the Norsk-Eunic alphabet, read from left to right, 
as classified by Mr George Petrie, to decipher the palm-runes 
in Maes Howe. 

No. III. 

Class 1. 

Class 2. 

f u til 

r k 


And the following are the inscriptions on the walls of Maes Howe : 

No. IV. 

W W W W M 

A (se) r 

Aryikr, Erikr, Eric. 

The key to the cypher is here shown by the tranverse stroke on 
the stem of the first letter to the left (A or se). 

No. V. 




forming an inceptive — " these runes." In the word " Eunar," 
the left-hand branches are turned down by way of variety ; of 
course the number is the same. Finally, it is interesting to 
compare this " Mushajjar " with a similar system, the Irish 
letters, which bear the names of trees. They are : 

1 — n — nr 



\ — H — H+ 



And even in the common runes, we may observe that there is 
only one (E) which is not composed of a rune-staff, supporting 
offsets disposed at various angles. 

No. I., the Arabic form connected by horizontal base-lines, 
contains two sets of three, and four sets of four letters, read as 


usual in Semitic alphabets ; beginning with Alpha and ending 
with Tau : it is in fact the Aleph-Tav of the Hebrews and of 
the older Arabs, as preserved in the numeral and chronological 
syllabarium " El Abjad." I need hardly note that this was 
characteristic of the world- conquering Phoenician, that glorious 
gift to Greece, usually attributed to Cadmus (El Kadim, or the 
Ancient), and by us incongruously applied to our Aryan speech; 
a comparison of the sequences a, h, c, and d (Abjad), and k, I, m, 
and n (Kalaman) with any other system at once proves direct 
derivation. In the Pehlevi Mushajjar the letters, it will be 
seen, are not joined at the base, and sundry branches are formed 
in a different way. 

Mr Farrer, who first " established the important fact of Eunic 
inscriptions existing in Orkney, where none had hitherto been 
found," gives both sets of palm-runes (Plates VIII. and IX.). 
He borrows the following information (p. 29, referring to Plate 
VIII.) from Professor Stephens, a good Norsk scholar : " The six 
crypt runes or secret staves represent the letters A, M, E, L, I, 
K, E, and signify Aalikr or Erling, a proper name, or perhaps 
the beginning of some sentence." Professor Munch observes, 
" The other characters in the third line are known as ' Limouna,^ 
or Bough-Eunes.' They were used during the later times of the 
Eunic period in the same manner as the Irish Ogham, but are not 
here intelligible. The writer probably intended to represent the 
chief vowels — A, E, I, 0, U, Y. The Eunic alphabet was divided 
into two classes : the strokes on the left of the vertical line indi- 
cating the class, and those on the right the rune itself." And Pro- 
fessor Eafn declares, " The palm-runes underneath cannot be read 
in the usual manner ; the first, third, and fourth of the runes being 
a, 0, and i ; the writer probably intended to give all the vowels, 
but some of the letters have been obviously miscarried, and have 
perhaps been altered and defaced at a later period by other per- 
sons. In the first of these a cross line has been added to show 
that the letter a is intended." Of No. XVIII. (Plate X.), Mr 
Farrer notes, " The palm-runes are rarely capable of being de- 
ciphered." Professor Munch similarly declares, " The bough- 

^ Gen. Lim-rfinar (lim or limr being the limb of a tree opposed to the bole), 
which Cleasby explains as **a kind of magical runes." 


runes are not easy to decipher;" whilst Professor Stephens asserts, 
" The palm-rune's on the first line indicate Thisar Eunar — ' these 
runes.' " They are mentioned in the Elder Edda (Sigrdrifumal, 
stanza 11) : 

* * Lim-runes thou must ken, 
An thou a leech wouldst be. 
And know to heal hurts." 

The crytogram, "El Mushajjar," was forwarded to Mr Petrie, 
who replied as follows : " I attempted by means of your tree- 
branched alphabet to read the palm-runes of Maes Howe, but 
failed. It then occurred to me that they might correspond with 
the Futhork, or Icelandic alphabet, and, obtaining the key of the 
cipher, I completely succeeded after a few hours' trial. On re- 
ferring to Mr Farrer's copies of the translations given by the 
Scandinavian professors, I find that Professor Stephens appears 
to have put five runes in each of the first two classes, which 
makes the third palm-rune (inscription No. I.) to be L instead of 
Y; moreover, he does not give the key. My first attempt at 
classifying the runes by means of the cipher turned out correct, 
and I have therefore retained that classification in reading the 
second inscription. It is evident that the classification could be 
altered at will of the person using it, and this uncertainty of 
arrangement must constitute the difficulty of interpreting such 

In ISTos. XIX. and XX. (Plate X.) we read " lorsafarar Brutu 
Orkhrough" — the Jorsalafarar (Jerusalem-farers, i.e., pilgrim- 
visitors of Jerusalem) broke open Orkhow (shelter-mound), pro- 
bably in search of treasure : the latter is an object especially 
Eastern. There are seven crosses, and one inscription (Xo. XIII.) 
must be read from right to left. We may therefore believe that 
certain old Coquillards, and possibly Crusaders, returning from 
Palestine, whence they brought the " hubby," ^ violated the tombs, 
and left a single name and an unfinished inscription to record 
their propensity ^ for grave-plundering. 

1 "Hubby" is a loose robe, erroneously derived, like the Scotch Joop, the 
German Giup, the Italian Giubba and Giubbone, the French Jupe and Jupon, 
and the Slav Japungia, from the Norsk Hwipu. All these are simply corruptions 
of the Arabic *' Jubbeh." 

2 These Northmen left their handiwork even on the ''Stones of Venice." 

VOL. I. T 


We visited the museum at Stromness, the amorpholites or 
" Standing Stones," and that " Mediterranean in miniature," the 
Stennis Lake, whose flora is partly marine and partly lacustrine. 
Hereabouts, the plain shows distinct remnants of the two great 
epochs — Bruna-old, the Age of Burning; and Hauga-old, the 
Age of Burial. We have no reason to believe the tradition that 
Odin introduced cremation ; doubtless, the " crematee " was 
chiefly of the wealthy classes, while the poor were inhumed — 
they were both synchronous in the days of the Twelve Tables : 
"Hominem mortuum in urbe ne sepelito, neve urito." Hence 
a valuable rule for tracing the exact limits of old Eoman cities, 
even of Eome herself: the cemetery was always outside the city 
settlement, and, if possible, to the south. 

The day ended happily, as it began, in meeting Colonel Bur- 
roughs of Eousay, and Dr Eea of Arctic fame. My memories of 
Kirkwall are pleasant in the extreme. It wants only a good 
modern hotel to deserve the patronage of tourists, who, in these 
days, are told to " try Lapland," when they have ample induce- 
ment to pass a summer in the " storm- swept Orcades," and in 
other sections of the Scoto-Scandinavian archipelago. 

On Friday, September 6, the " Jon SigurSsson," Captain MUller 
of whom more presently, made with some difficulty the Shetland 
Mainland. Many derivations are offered for the latter word, but, 
as the island is larger than all the rest put together, the obvious 
signification suffices.^ A dark, thick fog had kept us drifting all 

Readers may not be unwilling to see the legend upon the maneless and melan- 
choly lion, the statue of Pentelic marble, ten feet high, once at the harbour 
mouth of the Pirteus (Porto Leone), where the pedestal still stands, now fronting 
the arsenal, Yenice, where, after the retreat from Greece, the Doge Morosini 
carried it in 1687. The hardly legible inscription on the right side of the animal 
is supposed to be, "Asmundr graved these runes united with Asgeir, Thorlief, 
Thord, and Ivar, at the request of Haraldr Hafi (the Tall) ; although the Greeks, 
taking thought, forbade it." It is supposed that this Harold was the same who 
had the promise of seven feet in English ground. The left flank and shoulder 
are less uncertain, and the legend reads as follows : ' ' Hakun, united with Ulfr 
(Wolf) and Asmundr and Aurn (Orn), conquered this port. These men and 
Haraldr Hafi, on account of the uprising of the Greek people, imposed consider- 
able fines. Dalkr remained (prisoner ?) in remote regions. Egill fared with Ragnar 
to Rumania . . . and Armenia." „ 

The inscriptions were first published in 1800 by Akerblad, a Swedish savant; 
they have been frequently revised, and the last study is the " Inscription Runique 
du Piree, interpretee par C. C. Rafn ; et publiee par la Soci^te Royale des Anti- 
quaires du Nord," Copenhagen, 1856. 

1 The old Norsk Megin-land, land of might, or mainland, is evidently, like the 


night close to the dangerous rocks called Hivda Grind, Havre de 
Grind, or Hardegrind, originally Nafargrind, from Grind (a hedge- 
gate or sea-way), and, perhaps, HofSa (a head or bluff). Our 
position, some seven miles E.S.E. of Foula (Fugley) Island, ex- 
plained the noise of the surf and the shallowing of water to 
thirty-two fathoms — it is far easier in these latitudes to hear than 
to see the land ! The raw mist obscured the bold, grand scenery 
of the western coast till noon, when a sickly sun sublimed the 
vapours, reminding me of the Malabar coast after the Mlgherry 
Hills. Very mild was the Eoost^ or Kace of Sumburgh, a Euri- 
pus, where nine currents are said to meet. We could distinctly 
sight Fitful ^ Head, and 

**"We saw the tide 
Break thundering on the rugged side 
Of Sumbnrgh's awful steep." 

Its flank of clay-slate showed vast rivas (clefts) and stone-slips, 
while beyond it lay the skeleton of Jarlshof (Earl's house), names 
now world-known. It is curious to trace how the practised eye 
and the wonderful memory which created our modern historical 
novel skimmed the very cream of Hjaltland peculiarities during 
a few days' visit in August 1814, the year in which he published 
the Eyrbyggja Saga ; ^ and it is fortunate for writing travel- 
lers that Sir Walter Scott did not visit the Fseroes and Ice- 
land. See what he did for the " Waverley Line" of Eailway ! 

Scotch Mickle, connected with the Persian Mih or Mihin, great, power- 
ful, but not, as Mr Blackwall conceives, with "miracle." The classical name of 
the Orkney group, then numbering only seven, is Acmodse in Pliny, iv. 16, and 
Hsemodse in Mela, iii. 6. The Icelandic term is Hjaltland (pronounced Zhatland), 
hence Zetland, Hetland, and Shetland. Thus it still preserves the fame of old 
Hjalti, the Viking of the ninth century, who also survives in the modern " Sholto." 
Munch suggests that Hjaltland, hilt-land, may have been given from a weapon 
dropjjed in it ; so trivial Avere the names of olden Scandinavia : he also mentions 
the legend of Swordland, a great country now submerged, between Norway and 
Hjaltland, its hilt. 

^ In Scandinavian, Dynrost, "thundering roost," from " aS dynja," to din; 
hence the Tyne and Dvina Kivers, The Icelandic liost, or current, is the French 
Kaz ; that of " PetlandsfjorS" is especially celebrated. In the Orkneys "Roust" 
is a stormy sea caused by the meeting of tides ; " Skail" (Icel. Skellr) is the dash- 
ing of surf upon the shore ; " Skelder," the washing of waves, is a common name 
for farm-houses near the beach; and " Swelchie," which explains its own meaning, 
is the Icelandic Svelgr. 

2 FitFiall, i.e., "planitiespinguis,"or, better still, FitfulglahofSi, sea-fowl cape. 

3 An abstract printed in *' Illustrations of Northern Antiquities," one vol, 4to, 
Edinburgh, 1814; reprinted verbatim in " Northern Antiquities," edited by Mr 
J. A. Blackwall, London, Bohn, 1859. In it we may note the origin of Noma 
the sibyl's ' ' improvisatory and enigmatical poetry. " 

292 ULTIMA thule; or, 

Amongst the islanders he is a household word, but though the 
Troils of Papa Westrse do not object to Magnus Troil, they are 
still incensed by the portraiture of that " fiddling, rhyming fool," 
poor Claud Halcro. 

The approach to Bressey Sound, one of the finest ports in Great 
Britain, is unusually picturesque. On the right is the " Wart of 
Bressey"^ — verrucose features are here common as in the Orkneys, 
but the word is the Icelandic " VarSa," and the German "Warte," 
a watch-house. Its fianks are gashed for turf; and a goodly 
lighthouse is as much wanted on the dangerous western coast as 
on the Mediterranean shores of Africa. The island was lately 
sold, they say, for £20,000. On the left is the historic Knap or 
Knab (Hnapp meaning a button) of quartzose slate, backed by 
the quarries and the spreading town of Lerwick — mud bay. The 
(Arthur) Anderson Institute and the Widows' Asylum reminded 
me of a Shetlander who began life as a clerk, became M.P. in 
1847-52, and died the chairman of the great " P. & 0."' — it is a 
pity that these fine establishments were not better endowed. The 
capital stands with its feet in the water ; the houses, with their 
crow- stepped gables, being so built for convenience of smuggling, 
and its sons fondly compare it with cities on the Ehine. Half a 
dozen Dutch busses, riding in couples, now represent the hundreds 
of bygone days, when the British fisheries were called the " gold 
mine of Holland." Certain features suggested modern Tiberias, 
but the disproportionate number of the churches soon weighed 
down that flight of fancy. 

On the day after arrival, I set out with Captain Henry T. Ellis, 
E.N. (of " Hong-Kong to Manilla"), to do the tour de rigueur — 
Scalloway^ Castle and Moseyaburgum, the Mousa (Mosey) Broch^ 

^ Originally Br6sey, from Brusi, a proper name. 

^ Skala-vegr, the way of the court-house. 

^ Also written Brough, meaning a round tower. The word is usually derived 
from the Gothic "berga," to defend, but it has a far nobler origin. It is the 
Chaldee "burgadh," the Arabic "burj," the Armenian "pourc," the Greek 
"ir^pyo^," and the Latin "burgus;" the Gothic "baurg," the Mseso-Gothic 
"bairg," and "borg," a mountain; the Scandinavian "borg," a fortress; the 
Armoric, Irish, and Welsh "burg, "also found in Teutonic and Saxon; the Anglo- 
Saxon "beorh" and "beorg," a rampart, and "burh" or "burcg," a castle; the 
Belgian "burg," the Gaelic "burg," the French "bourg," the Italian "borgo," 
the North British "burgh" and " burg," as Edinburgh and Corrensburg; the 
Scoto-Scandinavian " brogh" or *' broch," with the guttural uncompounded, and 


or Pecht House. We took the excellent northern road, begun 
during the famine, and finished some four years ago (1870) : 
formerly when a picnic was intended, gillies were sent on to 
smooth the way for riders. After a few yards, we left the fertile 
seaboard, whose skirts and smooths are, as in Iceland, the only 
sites for agriculture, and entered the normal type of country, 
which begins in Scotland and Ireland. There can be no better 
description of bog and moor, of hill-land or commonty, and of 
" moss, mount, and wilderness, quhairin are divers great waters," 
than that which opens the first chapter of " Lord Kilgobbin," the 
last work of that most amiable and sympathetic writer, whose 
unworthy successor I now am : " Some one has said that almost 
all that Ireland possesses of picturesque beauty is to be found 
on or in the immediate neighbourhood of the seaboard ; and if 
we except some brief patches of river scenery on the ' Nore' and 
the ' Blackwater,' and a part of Lough Erne, the assertion is not 
devoid of truth. The dreary expanse called the Bog of Allen, 
which occupies a high table-land in the centre of the island, 
stretches away for miles, flat, sad-coloured, and monotonous, 
fissured in every direction by channels of dark-tinted water, in 
which the very fish take the same sad colour." Similarly we 
read of Scotland : " The inland, the upland, the moor, the moun- 
tain, were really not occupied at all for agricultural purposes, or 
served only to keep the poor and their cattle from starving." 

The surface of this Irish Sliabh and Icelandic HeiSi, a true 
" black country," natural not artificial, rolls in low warty moors 
revetted with moss, spangled with Fifa, or cotton-grass (Epilohmm, 
or Eriophorum epistacliion), and gashed with deep black earth- 
cracks, showing the substrata of peat; the tarns and flowing 
w^aters are inky as the many Brazilian " Unas " (Black waters), 
and though strongly peat-flavoured, they are not unwholesome. 
I could not find that they had been used for tanning, nor have 
the people yet found out the value of the " peat-coal," macerated 
condensed^ peat, so long appreciated by the Grand Trunk of 

even **borve," as in Sianborve, and "burr," as in Burraness; and, finally, the 
English "burg" and "burgh," "borough" and "burrow." Such are a few of its 
titles to antiquity and extent of domain. 

^ I am well aware of the difficulties, and especially of the expense, objected to 


Canada and the railways of ISTew England and Bavaria ; even in 
the Brazil a patent for the manufactory was taken out some 
years ago, and Bahia now exports the article. Yet in Lyell's 
" Principles of Geology" (11th edit., vol. ii., p. 504) we meet the 
strange assertion, " No peat found in Brazil." The supply of the 
bog factories near Montreal costs nine shillings to ten shillings 
per ton, or about one-fourth the value of pit coal. The Torbite 
of Horwich (Lancashire) is even cheaper, and experts have said 
that it gets up steam to 10 lbs. pressure in one hour ten minutes, 
and to 25 lbs. in one hour thirty-two minutes — the figures of 
Lancashire coal being two hours twenty-five minutes and three 
hours — at any rate, we may beHeve that when water is excluded, 
its heating power is about half way between wood and coal. 
Thus it becomes an article of general value to brewers, distillers, 
and manufacturers ; and the Swedish iron, equal to Low Moor, 
as well as the yield of the Bavarian, the Wurtemberg, and the 
Bohemian mines, are all treated with condensed peat. It is now 
time to utilise the vast bogs of the finest deep black fuel, in 
which Ireland and the Hebrides, the Shetlands and the Orkneys 
abound, especially when perpetual colliery strikes, causing coal 
famines and the immense rise in the value of the combustible, 
have made steamers lie idle in our ports. Truly Torf-Einarr 
Jarl, who first taught the art and mystery of " yarpha "-burning, 
deserves a memorial statue on the Torf-nes. 

In such " sea-gu-dled peat-mosses " as these, agriculture is a 
farce, and only sheep can pay. The foundation of the rocks, 
snowy quartz veining grey and chloritic slate, is that of Minas 
Geraes, and yet crushing for gold has not, we were assured, been 
attempted. Dr Cowie informed me that copper and iron are 
now successfully worked near Sandwich; and I hope soon to 
hear of prospecting for the nobler metal. At present our 

condensing peat. But peat au naturel can be burnt as the mottes in France and 
Holland have been used for generations. And I am also aware of the immense 
interests wielded by the Coal League — surely these must sooner or later succumb 
to the public good. Lands without coal leagues find no difficulty in the operr tion. 
The two companies lately established at Oldenburg use a large flat-bottomed 
steamer, which opens a canal 20 feet broad and 6 deep at the rate of 10 to 12 feet 
per hour : the soil is heaped up on the banks, and is cut into brick-shape, after 
which mere drying makes it fit for fuel. 


African California, the Gold Coast itself, is not more thoroughly 

Shetland life is concentrated near the sounds and voes (the 
Vogr of Iceland), where the dykes of Galway and Eoscommon, 
dry or mortared walls, enclose yellow fields of oats, barley, and 
potatoes black with frost. Churches, and manses bigger than 
the churches ; kilns burning kelp and lime ; substantial houses, 
thatched with barley-straw, upon " pones," or slabs of dried turf, 
the whole kept in place by " sinimins" (straw ropes), stones, and 
logs, dotted the lowlands. Here and there stood a few willows 
and maple-planes, erroneously called sycamores,^ under the 
shelter of walls ; and uncommonly pleasant after Iceland was the 
twitter of the birdies. Many broken and unroofed cottages, 
some of them leper-houses in bygone days, reminded us that the 
disease lingered longer in Scotland than in England; in the 
Scoto-Scandinavian islands than in Scotland ; and in Iceland 
than in the " Eyjar." The frequent ruined home-steads of small 
tenantry, compelled, when their land was " laid down to grazing," 
to seek their fortunes elsewhere, are the salient features. The 
" murid " (murret) coloured Shetland sheep have now made way 
for Scotch intruders ; the cattle are from Ayrshire ; and English 
horses, not " cussers from Lanarkshire," have taken the place of 
shelties. Ducks and geese are everywhere ; skarfs and gulls are 
more numerous than the speckled cocks and hens ; and salt-fish, 
which here is not sun-dried, lies piled, as in Iceland, upon the 

Much has been said in books ^ about the physical beauty of 
the Shetlanders, bat neither of us could see it. There is a greater 

1 After Australian diggers had asserted for years that gold would be found in 
Bute, a specimen was lately (1874) extracted from a vein of quartz which runs 
out into the sea below the Skeoch plantation. 

2 Jerome Cardan, travelling in Scotland (1552), remarked the popular fondness 
for the Platanus, and explains it thus : "I think they take a special delight in 
that tree, because its foliage is so like vine leaves. . . . 'Tis like lovers, who 
delight in portraits when they can't have the original." Colonel Yule (Geograph. 
Mag., Sept. 1, 1874) asks whether these trees were the real plane {P. Orientalis) 
or the maple {Acer pseudo-jylatanus), commonly but erroneously so called in Scot- 
land, and still more erroneously in England, "Sycamore." Hence also, he ob- 
serves, by propagation of error Eastern travellers translate the Persian "Chinar" 
{Platanus) by Svcamore. 

3 Especially ' ' Shetland, ' ' etc. , by Robert Cowie, M. A. , M. D. Edinburgh : Menzies, 
1871. Will the author allow me to suggest that in his next edition of this valu- 


variety of race than in the islands farther north, but less, as 
might be expected, than in the Orkneys and Caithness. The 
blue eyes are milder than in Iceland, the long bright locks are 
the same, but the complexion is by no means so "pearl and 
pink" — perhaps its muddiness may result from peat- water. 
The blondes, as a rule, wear that faded and colourless aspect 
which especially distinguishes the Slav race. The look is shy 
and reserved, and the voice is almost a whisper, as if the speaker 
were continually nervous : strangers notice this peculiarity even 
in society. En revanche, the women appear to be peculiarly in- 
dustrious. They crowd Commercial Street during the Monday 
markets, and even when carrying their heavy " cassies," " cassie- 
cazzies," or crates of peat, which serve for " Eonin the Bee," 
they spin yarn and knit " tree-ply stockings," apparently not 
intended for their own naked feet. The Wadmel, or Wadmaal, 
the North of England Woadmel, here better known as " Shetland 
claith," cannot, however, compare with that of Iceland ; the tex- 
ture is loose, and the stuff in the shops is evidently meant to 
sell, not to last. 

After seeing the humble wonders of Scalloway Castle, we 
struck southwards and across the Mainland, where we could hire 
a boat for the Whalesback of Mousa. The leek-shaped Broch 
has a pair of romantic legends attached to it, but they are too 
modern for interest. This most perfect specimen of the seventy 
round towers^ has been often described, but no one seems to 
have noticed the similarity of the double walls of the vaulted 
and many-storied bee-hive chambers, and of the other pecu- 
liarities, with those of the pre-historic Sardinian Nurhagghi. 
The " stepped domes " of dry stone, and the " concealments," 

able work — an exceptional guide-book, amusing as well as instructing — the medical 
part from page 56 to page 88, and especially Chapter XIV., should be placed in 
an appendix ? At present it reminds me of a volume which I read with the live- 
liest interest, '* The Luck of Roaring Camp," regretting only that the order of the 
tales had not been systematically reversed. Dr Cowie has been kind enough, at 
my request, to draw up an account of the pre-historic collection at Lerwick, 
which will be found in the note at the end of this chapter. 

Since these lines were written, the papers have informed me that Dr Cowie, 
after printing a second edition of his admirable guide-book, has passed from this 
world when in the prime of manhood. 

^ The number of these places of refuge shows the Shetlands in proto -historical 
times to have been densely peopled. I have made the same remark about the 
Istrian Castellieri. 


also reminded me much of similar features in outlying Syria. 
Some ill-conditioned party of " cheap-trippers/' or " devil's-dust 
tourists/' has lately fired the secular moss which clothed the 
south-western wall. On the way back to Lerwick there is 
another ruin in CHckamin (also written Chickhamin) Lake : in- 
teresting as the means of comparison, it has an addition evi- 
dently more modern of extensive outworks, which Mousa Castle 
wholly wants. 

Unfortunately for myself, I had not time to call upon the late 
Mr Thomas Edmonston of Buness, whose philological labours are 
so valuable to northern students;^ and to tell unpleasant truth, 
I was somewhat surprised by the success of the nineteenth cen- 
tury in abolishing all the old hospitality. We inspected the con- 
tents of the dark little room, the anthropological collection of 
the Shetlands, which deserves a catalogue, and other comforts of 
civilised life. Many Hjaltlanders have never heard of it. The 
most interesting articles are the steatite pots from Unst, and the 
ceramic remains, guiltless of wheel, collected in the Brochs. 
There are also some rough " thunderbolts " — here the stone celt 
is considered, as by the ancient Greeks, to be an ao-T/ooTreAcKDs- 
Hence Claudian (fifth century) sings : 

*' Pyrenseisque sub antris 
Ignea fluminese legere ceraunia nymphae. " 

We ran into Thorshafn (Faeroes) on September 4, when a 
shower of rain had laid the fog. The " Isles of Sheep," others 
say of "Feathers," are evidently built like Iceland, with sub- 
marine trap ; and the deep narrow " grips " between them, 
passages free from any danger except the "vortices,"^ which 
can be seen, suggest that they have parted into long narrow 
fragments under the influence of subaerial cooling and contrac- 
tion. The deep black strata appear peculiarly regular, as those 
of the western FjorSs of Thule, streaked with lines of red ochre, 
spotted with white guano, and not showing, in this part at least, 
any signs of Palagonite or sea-sand. The leaf-shaped valleys, 

1 Etymological Glossary of the Shetland and Orkney Dialects, by Thomas 
Edmonston. Edinburgh, 1866. 

2 Hence the name of Malestrom or Moskoestrom. 


the water-falls, and tlie natural arches, are familiar to us after 
"Snowland;" the shallow turf lies upon the steepest inclines, 
and not unfrequently it is torn off by the frantic wind with as 
much ease as a rug is rolled up. 

The course lay abreast of Mygganaes (Midge Naze),^ with 
its head to the south, and projecting a long low tail cut by a 
"coupe," like that of Sark. We then opened Waagoe (voe islet), 
so called because imbedded in the greater Stromoe. At the 
southern end, where once whales abounded, as may be seen in 
prints of 1844, many "Battles of the Summer Islands" were 
fiercely waged. We pass Gaasholm, Tind-holm, or Peak Island, 
a slice of rock with jagged uplifted edge, here a common feature, 
the Koltar (Coulter), which passably represents its name, and 
Hestoe the horse-eyot. The latter is a common Scandinavian 
name for a feature with a long straight dorsum, ready as it were 
for the saddle — witness the Horse of "Copinshay" (Kolbeins-ey) : 
the hunchbacks are mostly called " hogs," and the smaller out- 
liers " calves." The normal shape is a quoin, bluff to north or 
east, and sloping with a regular green incline to the water. 
There is no snow ; the hay crop has been got in, and the settle- 
ments are villages, not Baers or detached farms. We ran within 
easy sight of Kirkjubse, which stands well out from its adjacent 
hovels; it is the last Eoman Catholic building in the islands, 
and the " Eeformation " left its sturdy walls unroofed. Visitors 
speak of an iron plate imbedded in its masonry, and supposed 
to denote treasure, which is not likely. The old Church still 
keeps up a mission-house and chapel at Thorshafn, but we found 
the building void of priests. 

Whilst the " haaf," or outer sea, was calm as a lake, a cold and 
furious southerly wind, the gift of the funnel between Sandoe 
and Stromoe, blew in our faces, and when we had turned the 
southern point of the latter, it again met us from the north-east. 

1 "Lappmark's land-plague," says Mr Shairp, author of "Up in North" 
(London ; Chapman & Hall, 1872), is of three kinds : 

1. Mygg, or long nose {Culex pipiens), the wretch of stinging bite and blas- 

phemous song. 

2. Knott {C. reptans), a villain that keeps close to the ground, and avoids 


3. Hya or Gnadd {C. pulicaris), the smallest of the family, but when it 

** sticks," as the Swedes say, violent itching is the result. 





: P^ 






■; f^ 



The capital Thorshafn is a small heap of houses, or rather boxes 
strewed " promiscuous " on the ground, and a large white church, 
whose belfry is adorned with a gilt ball and a profusion of 
crosses. It has, however, a literary dean, and, better still, a 
library. The site of the settlement is a spit of rock dividing 
the harbour into a northern and a southern " hop " — the latter 
being generally preferred. A green flag floating over a shed 
near the fort denotes the quarantine station ; planked boat- 
houses figure conspicuously, and the roofs are more gTassy even 
than in Iceland. Willows, elder -trees, and currant-bushes, 
looking gigantic after the stunted vegetation farther north, 
flourish in sheltered spots, especially near the well-bridged 
brook in the southern part of the city. Along the dorsum of 
the spit runs an upper road with a small central square, looking 
as if a single house had been pulled down to make room. Huge 
boulders have not disappeared from the thoroughfares, and the 
latter are the most crooked and irregular of any that claim to 
be in Europe ; narrow, steep, and steppy — narrower than Malta, 
steeper than ramps at " Gib," and steppy like Dalmatian towns, 
for instance Curzola and Le'sina : in places they are supplied 
with hand-rails. 

The people are remarkably English in appearance, and per- 
haps an easy reason may be found for the resemblance. They 
appear rather shy than the reverse, and they notably lack Haz- 
litt's " Scotch stare." The women show the bloom of infinite 
delicacy that characterises the complexion of Iceland. The 
men, who unwisely shave their faces, still affect the picturesque 
island- dress, a peculiar-shaped cap of dark colour with thin 
blue or red stripes, long brown jacket, knee breeches of Wadmal, 
long stockings, and untanned spartelles, or "chumpers," the 
wooden-soled clogs of " Lankyshire." 

We called on Hr Sysselmand Miiller, and we left the Fseroes 
with a conviction that its capital is one of the " slowest " places 
now in existence : the only possible excitement would be to buy 
a 560-fathom " fowl-rope," ^ and to dangle like the samphire- 
gatherer of dreadful trade over the bird-precipices. " In a rope's 

^ The fowl rope contained sixteen ox hides, and the seven pieces each measured 
eighty fathoms. Early in the present century it cost only $10. 


end between earth and heaven, with the blue sky above you, and 
below you the still bluer sea tumbling, between which two you 
swing to and fro like a pendulum," one might secure a novel 
sensation to take the place of many an illusion perdue. A 
St Bartholomew's Day of a hundred and fifty whales, a massacre 
headed, by the parson and the schoolmaster, must also have its 
charms, but these events are unhappily waxing rare. 

ISLANDS. By the late Robert Cowie, M.A., M.D. 

Of the pre-historic weapons of warfare, or implements of 
domestic economy, which have been found in the Shetland 
Islands, by far the most numerous and important are the stone 
implements. These naturally divide themselves into two classes, 
viz., the polished and the rude. First let us speak of the polished 
stone implement, celt, steinbarte, battle-axe head, or " thunder- 
bolt." This implement has, for centuries, been an object of 
search, not only for the antiquary and the collector of curiosities, 
but for the native peasantry — the latter class regarding it with 
superstitious awe, as a sort of household god, who brings luck 
to the family that is fortunate enough to possess it. They term 
it the " thunderbolt," from a belief — everywhere found and dating 
from aU times — that the weapon has come down from the sky 
during a thunderstorm. These " celts," or steinbartes, as they 
are generally termed in scientific language, again divide them- 
selves into two varieties, viz. (1.) the single-edged steinbarte 
and (2.) the double-edged steinbarte. 

1. The single -edged steinbarte, which is by far the most 
common, is thus very accurately described by Dr Hibbert, in 
his excellent work on Shetland : " This variety of blade has 
one cutting edge, generally of a semilunar outline, and tapering 
from opposite points to a blunted extremity or heel. In some 
specimens both sides are convex ; in others one side only, the 


other being flattened. All the edges except the broad sharpened 
margin are bluntly rounded off. The single-edged stone-axes of 
Shetland vary much in their dimensions, being from four to eight 
or ten inches in length ; their breadth proportionately differing. 
When the Shetland steinbarte was used in war, its blunt taper- 
ing extremity may be supposed to have been introduced, within 
the perforation made into some wooden or bone haft, and after- 
wards secured by overlapping cords, formed of thongs of leather, 
or the entrails of some animal ; twine of hemp not being then 
in use." 

From considerable personal observation, I can testify to the 
accuracy of the above description, except that there appears to 
be in these instruments greater variety in size than that indi- 
cated by the learned Doctor ; the largest single-headed steinbarte 
in the Lerwick Museum being 14^ inches long by 4J inches at 
the broadest point, and the smallest 4^ inches long by 2^ inches 
at the broadest point. 

Continuing the paragraph just quoted, Dr Hibbert says : 
" Another kind of steinbarte has been said to occur in Shetland, 
the sharp edge of which describes the segment of a circle, whilst 
the chord of the outline is thickened like the back of a knife. 
Probably its blunt edge was fixed within the groove of a wooden 
or bone handle, so as to form a single-edged cutting instrument." 
This peculiar variety must have been very rare indeed, for no 
one appears to have seen it since the days of the Eev. Mr Low 
of Orkney, who wrote exactly a century ago. 

2. The double - edged steinbarte is described as follows by 
Dr Hibbert : " The blade of this instrument is a stone completely 
flattened on each of its sides, and not more than the tenth of an 
inch thick ; it is of an oblong shape, having one blunted margin 
perfectly straight, and, with the stone in such a position that the 
dull edge is the uppermost, we have the form of a blade pre- 
sented, in which the two narrow edges are irregularly rounded 
off at their angles, so that one edge is much broader than the 
other. Every part of the margin but that which constitutes the 
summit of the outline is sharpened ; by which means there is 
a great addition made to the extent of the cutting edge. The 
blade is 5^ inches long, and from 3 to 4 broad." This descrip- 


tion does not correspond with the specimens I have been able to 
examine. If they are to be considered fair specimens, I would 
describe the so-called double-edged steinbarte thus : An oblong 
flat piece of porphyry, serpentine, or some similar stone, 5 or 6 
inches long by 4 or 5 broad, and about a third or a fourth of an 
inch thick, with a thin sharp edge all round. 

These instruments, many of which are very beautiful both 
as regards form and polish, are generally formed of a peculiarly 
compact green porphyry or of serpentine. They have been found 
in most of the districts of Shetland, particularly in the parishes 
of Unst, Delting, Wells, and Sandsting. The situations and 
numbers in which they have been found, also present great 
variety. Some have been taken out of ancient stone cofi&ns, 
others found inside of or near to old " burghs," while many have 
been dug up in the common — some near the surface and others 
several feet beneath it.^ Most of them have been found singly, 
but in many instances large collections of such weapons have 
been discovered. Thus, in one instance, twenty-four of them 
were found in one spot, in another eight, and in a third seven, 
the last-mentioned series being arranged in the form of a circle. 

Polished stones having the shape of spear-heads have also 
been found in Shetland, but very rarely. They are said to be 
about four inches long, having a groove apparently for receiving 
a wooden shaft. 

Flint arrow-heads, although frequently dug up in Orkney, 
have not yet, as far as I can learn, been found in Shetland. 

2. The Eude Stone Implements. 

Wliile the polished archaic stone implements have been 
known during a long period of modern history, the rude or 
unpolished have only very recently been discovered, or at all 
events recognised ; and for this discovery we are chiefly indebted 
to the late Dr James Hunt, London ; Dr Arthur Mitchell, Edin- 
burgh ; and Mr George Petrie, Kirkwall, who conducted archseo- 

1 One of those in the Lerwick Museum was taken out of the peat-moss six feet 
beneath the surface. 



logical explorations in Shetland in the summer of 1865. Vast 
quantities of such articles must from time to time have been 
turned up by the peasantry; but it is only about this period 
they appear to have been recognised — a circumstance somewhat 
curious considering the many searches during a long series of 
years, made for relics of pre-historic times, by various accom- 
plished antiquaries. These rough instruments present great 
variety both as to shape and size. Let us endeavour to indicate 
the chief types. 

1. We have the club-like form, which is well illustrated by 
the accompanying copies of Dr Mitchell's excellent paper on 

Fig. 1. — Stone Implements found in Shetland. 

the subject.^ This implement is generally of large size ; one 
specimen measuring 21 inches by 2 J inches at the greatest 
breadth, and weighing 6f lbs. ; another is 20 inches long, 5 or 6 
in diameter, but attains the great weight of 14 lbs. Many of 

^ On some Eemarkable Discoveries of Rude Stone Implements in Shetland, by 
Arthur Mitchell, F.S.A., from Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scot- 

land, vol. vii,, 1866-67. 



the small forms found in the collections to be described appear 
to be fragments of this larger implement. 

2. Next in importance comes a long, narrow, flattish stone — 
"from 11 inches by 3 inches, to 6 inches by 1^ — thinned and 

Fig. 2. 

somewhat rounded at each end." Stones of this variety, which 
are very numerous in the collections already made, present a 
remarkable similarity. (See Fig. 2.) 

(3.) The third type, which is illustrated by Fig. 3, is " a broad. 

Fis. 3. 

flat stone, showing a tendency to be pointed at one end." Dr 
Mitchell considers most of these stones fragments of larger 



implements; but two entire specimens of this type are to be 
found in a good collection made by Mr Umphray, of Eaewick 
Shetland. The great majority of the rude stone implements 
found in Shetland belong to one or other of the types above 
briefly noticed; but we have still one or two less common 

(4.) The fourth type, of which I have not been able to see a 
specimen, is described by Dr Mitchell as " a water- worn stone, 

Fig. 4. 

10 to 12 inches long, more or less cylindrical, but tapering at 
the ends." 

(5.) The fifth variety, illustrated by Fig. 4, is a curious and 
very interesting spud-like instrument, of which only a few 
specimens have been yet found. 

We next have three or four very rare and exceptionable 

varieties. The first of these is a cylindrical and apparently 

water-shaped stone, well worn at each end, as if it had been 

used as a pestle in crushing corn, or for some such domestic 
VOL. 1. u 


purpose (Fig. 5) ; the second a " flat, four-sided stone, 5 inches 
long, 3 inches wide, and 1 J inches thick," with a groove on each 

of the long sides, so as to give it a constricted appearance ; and 
the third a piece of sandstone, or some such stone, with an oval 
cup-like hollow in it. 

These curious implements, thus briefly enumerated, have been 
found in various districts of Shetland, notably in the parishes of 
Sandsting, Walls, Dunrossness, and Unst. It is interesting to 
note the different positions in which they have been found — e.g., 
(1.) On the surface of the ground ; (2.) in curious subterranean 
structures; (3.) in the heart of a large tumulus; (4.) on the 
outside of stone coffins with urns in them ; and (5.) in the inside 
of a Kistvaen with a skeleton and a well-polished celt.^ 

Most of them are composed of sandstone, but a few of clay 
slate, or of micaceous schist. They apparently have been shaped 
chiefly by flaking, but in some instances also by picking. 

In connection with these archaic implements, three questions 
naturally arise : By whom, when, and for what purpose were they 
formed ? Were I able, this is not the place to discuss such 
difficult and important questions. On excavating " burghs " and 
opening tumuli, such pre-historic remains as fragments of rude 
pottery, pieces of charred wood, and teeth and broken pieces of 
bones of animals, are frequently discovered. 


Lerwick, Zetland, 24dh March 1873. 

1 Dr Mitchell, paper supra cit. 




After this interlude of Hysteron-proteron, we return to the 
steamer " Queen," which has pertinaceously bored through 

' ' The Pentland, where the furious tide, 
Runs white for many a mile." 

After sighting Cape Wrath, she bade adieu to " Earth's proudest 
Isle," and dashed north-west into the Deucalidian or Deucalidonian 
Ocean, the Mare Pigrum of the classics, the sea which Adam of 
Bremen terms jecoreum et pidmoneum, because it has a heavy 
motion like those troubled with asthma, in the same sense as 
Plautus speaks of asthmatic legs — "pedibus pulmoneis mihi 
advenisti." The Germans called it Liberse (Adam Bremen sis) 
and complained that the abnormal quantity of salt made it a 
Mare Mortuum. Hence Hoffman von Pallersleben sings : 

** De lebirmere 
Ein mere ist giliberot 
In demo wentilmere westerot 
S6 der starche Wint 
Giwirffit die Skef in den Sint, " etc. 

The portentous waves remarked by old Icelandic sailors between 
Iceland and America, are termed by them Haf-girSingar, or Sea- 
fens, and the Polar wastes between Norway and Greenland 
were known as Haf-botnar (deep-sea bay) and Trolla-botnar, 
because here was the abode of Troll-carl and Titan. The mighty 
breakers of the North Atlantic are known to picturesque and 
poetical tourists, not to seamen, as " Spanish waves." The sky, 
before clear, was all cirrus and cirro-cumulus, and the slaty green 
seas made the too lively " Queen" dance and reel with excite- 
ment. The cabin table was put into its straightest waistcoat, 



and men avoided the deck — on shipboard, as in maritime Iceland, 
once wet, you cannot dry again. Our numbers shrank at mess, 
and the passengers seemed to become hke the royal and feminine 
Legs of Spain. Ghostly sounds issued from the cabin; one 
*' Caledonian stern and wild," attached to a black dog, big as a 
donkey and hairy as a bear, made fierce attempts to violate the 
toilette tables and glared hideously at expostulation. Our only 
consorts were spirting whales and audacious troops of numerous 
gulls — these escorted us with sundry reliefs of guard as far as 

Presently we sighted the " Stack," a split rock with a bald 
white head, and further to starboard the Bird Skerry, a low 
dome wholly unprovided with lighthouse — how many a good 
ship, densely be-fogged, has run her bows upon this Eock of 
Death, and melted away in the yeasty waves ! At 6.30 p.m., we 
passed the " two solitary islands," Eonan and Barra, alias Sulisker, 
of old Sulnasker, north-easternmost outliers of the Hebrides. 
The former appears in hay-cock shape, the latter is a long flat- 
backed " horse," bluff as usual to the north, with a precipice 300 
feet high. Both are uninhabited, and might serve for fancy 
eremites. To starboard rises Fair Isle, half-way between the 
Orkneys and the Shetlands, once belonging to the former, now 
to the latter. This rock supplies the shops of Lerwick and 
Kirkwall with its peculiar hosiery; and the primary colours, blue, 
red, and yellow, of the Etruscan tombs, and the Temple of 
Ephesian Diana,^ are those which Algiers, Morocco, and the 
East, still know so well to blend. Mixed in the most daring 
way they are never inharmonious, glaring, and grotesque. It is 
well worth the artist's time and trouble to investigate and deter- 
mine the delicate differences of proportion which can make the 
" Devil's livery " so brilliant and pleasing to the eye. " Ye Yle 
of Fare," I need hardly note, is supposed to have derived its art 
from the shipwrecked seamen of the Spanish Armada. " Insula 
Bella," says Buchanan ; of which Brand remarks, " I neither did 

^ At Ephesus blue formed the background of enrichments and sculpture in 
relief, whilst brilliant reds and yellows were applied to the parts requiring greater 
prominence. The idea that red, green, and blue, are primitives, with yellow, sea- 
green, and pink for complements, is very modern and rather startling. 


see, nor was I informed of anything that affords us any reason 
why this isle should be so appellatively taken and denominated 
hella or fair." The Scandinavian name is FriSarey ; otherwise we 
might believe Fair Isle to be a congener of " Faeroes," from Fier, 
feathers, or from Fser, a sheep, because plena innumerdbilibus 
ovibios" (Dicuil). 

June 6. 

Still, as the weather waxed fouler, the aneroids rose higher 
and higher. We had exchanged an angry Auster, which filled 
the raw air with damp, for a wrathier Boreas that tore the clouds 
to tatters. All the northerly winds, which rarely outlast the 
fortnight in this capricious and treacherous climate, are cold and 
dry, consequently heavy, whilst those from the rain-bringing 
south notably want pressure. We are now approaching the 
region of paradoxes, a practical joke of Nature, where the Eule 
of Eeverse seems generally to apply. Travellers tell us that 
presently we shall see nine suns, which do not give the light and 
warmth of one ; sub-glacial volcanoes ; fire issuing from icebergs 
— is this not a dream of old Uno Von Troil?^ — a summer without 
thunder which is confined to winter ; stone crumbling soft under 
the touch ; stalactites and stalagmites of lava, not of lime, Pluto 
doing Neptune's work ; rivers now bone-dry, then raging floods ; 
forests sans trees; fuel thrown up by the furious sea; deep 
swamps clothing the high hill-slopes ; lakes supplying ocean cod ; 
and wild ducks swimming the almost boiling springs; a land 
where the men draw and carry water, and a population which, 
thriving in the worst weather, sickens and dies of malignant 
catarrh (the Kruyni of the Faeroes) when the heavens deign to 
bestow a rare smile. 

Our only passe-temps is that of calculating successive positions 
on the chart. There to starboard lies Foula, which some write 
Fowla and Foulah, and is evidently Fogla- or Fugla-ey,^ fowl's 

1 He attributes (p. 49) the fire to crushed driftwood, but Adam of Bremen 
declares the ice to be so dry that it can burn. 

2 The Icelandic " fugl " is especially applied to the gull. " Fowl-isle " amongst 
the Scandinavians meant an isolated rock lying far out to sea, and supposed to 
represent a bird swimming. 


or gull's eyot. The claims of the " stately headland " to repre- 

** Thule, the period of cosmographie," 

have been discussed in another place. It belongs to Dr Scott 
(E.K) of Melby; it numbers about two hundred souls, and it 
rejoices in a revenue of some £200 per annum — when fishing and 
crops are favourable. Like other islands, it has its magic carbuncle. 
Beyond it lies Papa Stour; Papey, the eyot of Culdees and 
anchorites: its natural arch will appear familiar after Iceland. 
About noon we found ourselves off the Fseroes, and the rest of 
the day was spent npon the Ferry of the Northern Sea. We 
steam all unconscious over the " Sunken Land of Bus," in N. 
lat. 58° 2' and long. 29° 55'; " Arctis," a continent which has lately 
been revived, and whose fragments are supposed to be Iceland, the 
Pseroes, Greenland, Spitzbergen, and Franz- Josef 's Land. This is a 
restoration, or rehabilitation, of Unger's Miocene Atlantis, which 
imitates Bailly's " in having taught us everything but its own 
name and existence." Older hydrographic books assure us that the 
western coast once " occupied many leagues of extent, but that 
after being overflowed, it is now not more than a league round 
when the sea is high. There was some years ago a large island 
named Finsland here, which was full a hundred leagues in cir- 
cumference, and on which were many villages." Similarly, Brasil 
Eock ("Hy Brazile") was placed in K lat. 57° 10' and long. 
16° : we have also the submerged land of Lionnesse (Leonnais) 
extending to the Scilly group and the drowned city of Ys, for 
which mass was recited till the beginning of the present century ; 
the island of St Brandan, the Masculine and Feminine Islands, 
the island Scoria with its archbishop, and the island Antillia 
with the " Septem Cidade," mythical features, spawns of the old 
" Atlantis." Hr Thorsteinnsson of Eeykjavik showed me the 
origin of Finsland, more generally called Friesland,npon a fragment 
of vellum chart, dating from the sixteenth or seventeenth century, 
almost "rotten with age," and ignobly converted into a book-cover. 
Evidently the " Isola Frislanda" of Messer Antonio Zeno, in A.D. 
1380, is a mere clerical or cartographic error for the Faeroes appear- 
ing in the shape of a large tract of ground close to and south- 
west of Iceland. Every map of the period supports its existence. 


Jtine 7. 

As we approach Snow-land the north wind seems to fall, or 
rather, to judge from the cirrous sky, it blows high overhead. 
Sailors in these northern seas believe that after passing beyond 
the " roaring Sixties " they begin to sail " under the wind." In 
other words, they hold that the Polar current, rushing to supply 
the ascending atmosphere estabhshed by solar action at the 
equator, and forming the upper trades, describes an arc which 
touches the earth about lat. 60° ; whilst in the higher latitudes 
of both hemispheres, the greatest force of the draught is high 
overhead. So, on the summit of Tenerife, we stand in a per- 
petual gale of upper trades, which farther north sinks to the sea 
surface and overflows Europe. 

Our situation was none of the most pleasant. An English 
vessel, also unprovided with pilot and skilful crew, has lately 
been wrecked upon the dangerous and inhospitable southern 
coast of Iceland. The clammy fog enwrapping us like a wet 
blanket, made altitudes hopeless ; the magnet is here bewitched, 
seeming as if it forgot the pole ; the old English hydrographic 
charts used on board our ships are poor compared with the 
French and the Danish ; and we might have been drifted east- 
ward or westward under the influence of unstudied currents. 
We crossed the bows of a big-sterned brig, but as she could not 
exchange a word with us, we " Queens" could only say bitterly, 

'* Barbaras hie ego sum, quia non intelligor illis ! " 

Under the circumstances we envied Vikingr Floki his conse- 
crated ravens, birds which, since the days of Genesis, are always 
supposed to make for the nearest land. Perhaps I should say 
before, as the " croaker " ^ has lately appeared in the mythical 
seven days' deluge, related by Sisit (Xisuthrus), and was a very 
cannibal from the beginning, as well as a bird of augury and 

^ Raven — old German, Hraban ; modern, Eabe ; Icel. Hrafn (pron. Hrabn) ; 
Anglo-Saxon, Hraefn; Dan. Eavn; and Slav. Vran — is derived (says Max 
Miiller, " Science of Languages," Longmans, 1862) from tbe Sanskrit Rn or Krn, 
"to cry," whence "raucus," and other kindred words. Like the pigeon, the 
genus Corvus (Corax and Cornix) crops up in all mythology, even where least 
expected ; witness the Hierocorax of Mithras and the marvellous changes by which 
Apollo and Athene became crows. 


sagacity. Sir William Thompson has thus ably discussed the 
question of raven versus magnet : " "We have no certain informa- 
tion of the directive tendency of the natural magnet being known 
earlier than the middle or end of the eleventh century (in Europe, 
of course). . . . That it was known at this date and its 
practical value recognised, is shown by a passage from an Ice- 
landic historian, quoted by Hanstien in his treatise of Terrestrial 
Magnetism. In this extract an expedition from Norway to Ice- 
land in the year 868 is described ; and it is stated that three 
ravens were taken as guides, for, adds the historian, 'in those 
times seamen had no loadstone-^ in the northern countries.' 
This history was written about the year a.d. 1068, and the 
allusion I have quoted obviously shows that the author was 
aware of natural magnets having been employed as a compass. 
At the same time it fixes a limit of the discovery in northern 
countries. We find no mention of artificial magnets being so 
employed or even known till about a century later. In a curious 
old French volume by Givot de Provence, of which the MS. is in 
the Eoyal Library at Paris, there occurs the following very interest- 
ing passage, which is the first allusion extant to the use of needles 
in place of the natural magnets for the compass : ' This same 
(i.e., the Polar star) does not move, and mariners have an art 
which cannot deceive by the virtue of the magnet, an ugly brown 
stone to which iron adheres of its own accord. When they look 
for the right point, and when they have touched a needle on it, 
and fixed the needle on a piece of straw lengthwise in the middle, 
and the straw keeps it above, then the point turns just against 
the star undoubtedly. When the sea is dark and gloomy that 
you can see neither star nor moon, then they bring a light to 
the needle, can they not then assure themselves of the position 
of the star towards the point ? By such means the mariner is 
enabled to keep the proper course ; this is an art which cannot 
deceive.' This passage shows clearly that magnetised needles 
were actually employed for nautical purposes as they are at 
present in the twelfth century." This interesting quotation 

^ The very word is Norsk, "leiSar- (Anglo-Saxon, IM) steinn,"not **lapis viae," 
but leading stone {afS leiSa), or lode-stone ; like lode-star and lodesman, * ' a pilot. " 
It is also called Solar-steinn, or "sun-stone." 


concerning the Mariniere or La Grenouille, was obligingly sent 
to me by Principal D. MTarlane of Glasgow. 

About one p.m. the sea became unaccountably smooth, and as 
the wind drew round to the north, we judged that we were under 
the lee of the land. Presently it was whispered that a white 
gleam of shore had appeared and disappeared over the weather- 
bow, and that we were running into shallow water, rendering 
lead more necessary than look-out, whilst upon all ears fell 
ominous sounds : 

" the surf that sings, 
The bar that thunders, the shale that rings." 

The fog suggested the old traveller's description, " subito collapsi 
sumus in illam tenebrosam rigentis oceani caliginem, quae vix 
oculis penetrari valeret;" and the sea became a "mare tene- 
brosum" of the most repulsive aspect. We had intended to 
make our landfall at the southernmost extremity of Iceland, Port- 
land Head, some forty-five miles to the west. But at six p.m. 
the water, blackened by the uliginous discharge of an unknown 
stream, and the dimly-seen pale-grey breakers furiously lashing 
the low-lying strand, and blurring it with water-dust, told us 
where we were. Immediately in front of us lay the carse, or 
alluvial lands, the deUai of those scarped walls that first issued 
from the deep : here begins what is technically called the SiSa, 
" side," or sea- shore, the long narrow strip of habitable land 
between the mountains and the beach. Its western limit is the 
river KuSafljot : this, the broadest in the isle, and ridiculously 
termed " Mle of Iceland," derives its name from KtiSi,^ the little 
Norwegian boats which ascended it in the olden day. 

We now ran cautiously westward. The southern shore, har- 
bourless as the corresponding part of Sicily, has in many parts, 
like Norway, two coasts, an inner and an outer ; the latter com- 
posed of reefs and islands, and somewhat resembling the true or 
old, and the false or new, shores of tropical Africa, for instance, 
about Dahome and the Slave Coast. Slowly rose on high, tower- 
ing through the mysterious gloom, the grisly, black, and scarped 
form of HjorleifshofSi, a ghostly castle upon a Stygian strand. 

^ Cleasby derives it from KtiSi or K6©, the fry of trout and salmon. 


But such weather would deform the fairest face that earth can 
show — would reduce the approach of Venice and of Wapping to 
an absolute level : as I afterwards saw it in clear sunny weather, 
Hjorleifs Head is by no means without a certain grim beauty 
of expression. The huge escarpment is a noble monument to 
him, who " fell by the basest of slaves " (Irishmen) because he 
" did not sacrifice to the gods." 

The scene now develops itself and becomes imposing in its 
cruel hideousness. We are off the eastern Jokull, so called in 
contradistinction to the western Jokull, now best known as Snse- 
fellsjokuU. It is truly Iceland, " everlasting frost," as oft-quoted 
Pindar sings, " and fountains of unapproachable fire." Beyond 
the ghastly greenish waves, and the low base of black, bleak, and 
barren shore, appears a contorted silhouette of broken basaltic 
blocks, a line of " Kara Babas " (Black Papas), rising in towers 
and battlements, and setting off the dead whiteness of the hogs- 
backs above, gleaming whiter still from their background of 
angry, watery, purple cloud-rack. The mighty mass starts from 
the south with the Myrdals (mire-dale) Jokull, a tract of 
eighty-four square miles, which often gives a name to the 
whole; it then connects with the GoSalondjokull, running 
east and west about fifteen to twenty miles long, by twenty to 
twenty-four broad, and utterly unexplored, save only the Kotlu- 
gja;^ thirdly, rising some way to the westward, the Eyjafjall- 
jokuU floats in air, the mighty beacon which guides to his land- 
fall the sailor voyaging from the south. Here the southern or 

^ Several Icelanders (see Dr W. Lauder Lindsay) have visited the rift which 
engulphed Katla, the murderess and suicide ; a name well known by the transla- 
tion of Powell and Magntisson. "G. H. C," before quoted, who explored it in 
August 1874, after being misled by the map, found on the southern face " a deep 
circular indentation where black volcanic sand could be seen uncovered by snow 
and ice." We can now explain by the usual method the glacier which, according 
to Professor Steenstrup, was torn from its moorings in 1721 by water within or 
below : evidently the heated ground melted the whole of the upper calotte and 
caused the catastrophe. Other traces were concealed by the snow-fall which, con- 
solidating into glacier-ice, accumulates annually twenty feet, and fourteen years 
have elapsed since the last eruption. The guides were surprised that ** their 
natural foe should present phenomena of a character no more startling and tre- 
mendous. What had they expected to find ? Perhaps a vast yawning gulf, over 
whose edge might be watched the spirit of Katla, whirling like a second Fran- 
cesca di Eimini in the sulphurous depths below. " Yet Henderson could descry 
from Skaptafell ' ' the aqua-igneous volcano Kotlu-gid, whose tremendously yawn- 
ing crater was distinctly visible " (i. 264). 


warmer exposure, which Dr W. Lauder Lindsay saw almost bare 
as late as June 13, shows snow only in the huge rifts gashing 
its black tormented flanks; whilst its head is crowned with 
a silvery aureole, possibly the reflection of the northern side, 
and contrasting sharply with its canopy of slaty -blue sky. 
The aspect of all this nevada makes the discoverer's heart beat 
fast, but the tremendous chasms in the basalt suggest peculiar 

Still our weary skipper, indefatigable withal, was doubtful 
about his position, when Professor PaijkuU's volume lying open 
upon the deck enabled all to recognise the southernmost point, 
Portland Head (W. long. G. 18° 54'; K lat. 63° 22'). The 
broad and high escarpment is faced by three diminutive outliers, 
and the largest of these is known as Dyrhola-ey, door-hill-isle ; 
the Napoleon book translates Dyrholar by tumulus des arches. 
Except that the port-holes number two, it exactly resembles the 
Doreholm of our Shetland Islands, prefixed by Pinkerton to 
John Brand's " Brief Description." A little to the east lie the 
Eeynidrangar (rowan-needles), a sister formation of drongs, but 
curving south-eastward and not south-westward. 

The freezing wind evidently blew directly from the mighty 
mass of snow-roofed glaciers lying immediately behind the shore, 
and it was midnight before we had covered the thirty to thirty- 
four knots separating Portland Head from the Yestmannaeyjar 
archipelago. The only sensible remark made about these " Irish- 
men's islands " was by an ancient seaman who, transferring his 
quid to the other side of his cheek, declared that they were 
exactly like a "toon with ill-liggit sta-a-cks." A small but 
enthusiastic knot of passengers did not turn in before five a.m. ; 
they were rewarded by seeing sundry cockle-shell craft, the 
Norwegian steamer making southwards, and a peak which 
they determined satisfactorily, for themselves at least, to be 

June 8. 

The morning, if we can so call it where night is negative, not 
positive, broke clear and cold, the north-westward savouring 
strongly of Greenland; and under the rosy sky the western 


horizon was a white streak, as though the gleam of an iceblink,^ 
adding a strange Polar charm. After Eyjafjall there is a com- 
plete change of feature ; the sea faces a great alluvial plain cut 
by many broad streams, which breaks inland into waves of 
rolling gTOund, with dots denoting hill and hillock, and which 
ends northwards in blue-black ranges jagged with many a de- 
tached peaklet. A host of gulls and terns ^ put in an appearance : 
I afterwards passed twice along this line, and found it almost 
desert of feather. Our Cockney gun again amused himself by 
slaughtering and maiming as many unfortunates as he could — 
it is only fair to own that this wanton cruelty was not looked 
upon with a favourable eye. The sable-crested and silver- 
breasted eider ducks with their brown wives fell easy victims. 
The same fate overtook the black diver {Colymbus TroiU) and 
the Lundi ^ or puffin {Mormon Fratercula or F. Arctica), called 
sea-parrot, probably from the disproportionate painted beak 
which, however, does not lodge a talking tongue. They could 
hardly rise in the smooth sea, for their wings are short as if 
they were a transition to the penguins ; but they scuttled away, 
paddling with their web-feet as fast as we approached them. 
The feathers of the Lundi are collected for stuffing, despite their 
prodigious growth of pediculi. It is the Shetlanders' Tommie or 
Tom Noddy, the JSTorie of the Orcades, the Priest of Scotland, 
and the Pope of Cornwall. Some travellers strongly recommend 
puffin-pie stuffed with raisin pudding and baked, but the oily 
flesh has a bad name as diet : its chief uses are fuel and fish-bait. 
Yet the "pope" or "priest," the half-fledged bird, is pickled 
and eaten in our islands. The Arctic Skua {Zestris Thuliaca, 
Prey., or Stercorarius parasiticus), the Shetlanders' Bonxie, kept 
out of our reach as it chased and plundered its feathery brethren. 
It derives the opprobrious " Stercorarius " * from a mere scandal, 

^ In Iceland the reflection of field-ice is brightest, but yellow ; new ice is grey, 
and drift-ice is purest white. The use of " blink " is not happy : Ross employs it 
in "ice-blink" to denote a cliff or barrier; others talk of land-blink, i.e., the 
reflection of the sky upon the earth. 

2 The English "tern" is from the Icel. Therna {Sterna hirundo). 

^ Hence " Lundy " in the Bristol Channel. 

^ Baring-Gould (pp. 418, 419) gives four kinds of skuas — Catarrhades (great 
skua), Pomatorhinus, Parasiticus (Arctic skua), and Buffoni. He makes "Kjor" 
the Icel. name for No. 3 : I heard it so applied, but the Dictionary gives " a sea- 


and "parasiticus" from its habit of harrying the tarroch {Rissa 
tridactyla) and the " graceful sea-swallow," which Mr P. Miles 
holds to be game {Sterna macrura). The Icelanders call this 
" viking of birds " from its cry, Kjoi (pronounced Kiowi) ; and 
the Fseroese Tyovi, "the thief" The white-robed Dominican, 
with its black scapular, has a strong wing, and the sharp, crooked 
claws which garnish the web-feet, make him a raptor addicted, 
they say, to attacking newly-dropped lambs. The gannets or 
solan geese {Sula Bassana, whence probably Sulisker, the Sule- 
skerry or flat, insulated rock never awash) fell before the shot, 
but after a short sickness they rose struggling, and winged their 
way towards land. These interesting birds, made conspicuous 
by their cream-coloured heads and black primaries, form Indian 
files or wedges when travelling from place to place, and separate 
where the tide-rip shows the sea to be unusually fishy. The 
" Pelicanus JBassanus" though connected by name mth the Bass 
Eock, abounds about the Cape of Good Hope and Madagascar. 
It is a fowl of many titles. Here it is termed Sula or Haf-siila 
(deep-sea Sule) ; whence our solan, misnamed goose ; and the 
Dutch know it as Jan van Genter — whence our "gannet" (?) 
Its fine shape and flight have probably given it a place amongst 
the " singidaria naturce et providentice," with which the good 
Bishop Pontoppidan has supplied these northern regions. Hence, 
according to Meyerus (de volucri arhorea), the conchce avitijicm 
sen anatiferce, birds growing like African oysters on trees : this 
fable finds a pendant in Los Pateros of Manilla, duck-hatching 
establishments where men incubate the eggs. Mr James Wilson, 
speaking of the Solan goose {Sula alba) of St Kilda, computes 
that the 200,000 birds forming the colony consume . between 
March and September 214 millions of herrings. Jerome Cardan 
(Travels in Scotland) found the " Sol and, perhaps Pliny's sea- 
eagle," a bird of general use. In spring they supplied the garri- 
sons with fuel, to say nothing of fish ; they patiently endured 
their young to be taken from them ; they have quantities of fat 

bird of the tern kind ; Hill's Sterna. " "We find the family mentioned by Pigafetta, 
the circumnavigator (a.d. 1519-22), under the libellous name *'Cagassela" or 
*' Caca uccello," and he himself oftentimes witnessed the practice which survives 
in the term Stercorarius. It is an Antarctic as well as an Arctic ' ' pirate of the seas. ' ' 


under the skin used for dressing wool Qiac lances inficiunt), and 
a " certain small gut " yields a grease which is excellent for pains 
in the hip-joint. " The profit this bird gives is manifold, viz., 
from sticks, feathers; fat, and young ones; and it is said to 
amount to 500 golden crowns yearly" — an extinct industry! 

We ran along the shore of Krisuvikrberg, with precipices some 
200 feet high fronting the leprous splotch upon the conical and 
jagged highlands that denote the Krisuvik Sulphur Mountain. 
This formation accounts for the sandstrips, which look notably 
yellow after the black lowlands to the east; and the colour 
is rendered brighter by quantities of comminuted sea shells 
thickly spread on the shore. This south-western projection is 
one vast " Hraun," ^ or cold lava-field, a land seemingly afflicted 
with '' black death," yet it rejoices in the title of Gold-breast 
Canton (Gullbringu Sysla); the plentiful fisheries representing 
the precious metal. At nine a.m. we ran by the " Karl " (carle or old 
man),^ a detached mass standing boldly out from the lava-crested 
coast ; it has a ridge and steeple, which, especially when seen 
from the west, justify the English " Church Eock." Here, like 
the great lava lip beyond, its flanks are white with the guano of 
the Filungr or Fulmar^ {Procellaria glacialis), foulest of sea-fowl. 
Beyond it is a bunch of volcanic cones and tumuli, spiracles and 
hornitos, all bare rock, or clothed with lapilli; one grass-clad 
crater appears to be of considerable size, and we easily count four 
distinct coulees or discharges spilling over the Palagonite cliffs. 

Behind the leprous Karl lies Eeykjanes, or Keeky N'aze, so 
named with a reason. A puff of steam rose high in the air, sug- 
gesting, as I read with astonishment in the Scotsman (June 17th),* 

^ A term of daily use, derived from *' a9 hrynja," to flow, to stream down; its 
pronunciation {Hroyn) induces the facetious traveller to call it the "road to ruin," 
and Henderson wrote as he spoke, Hroyn. "Gullbringu" is usually translated 
gold-bringing; but Cleasby, sub voc. " bringa," derives the word diff'erently, and 
makes " Gull-bringur " signify the Golden Slopes. In Sect. VII. of Introduction 
a third signification has been given. 

2 Hence the country word " Kaarl Cat," for torn cat, still preserved in heraldry. 
The Icel. Karl is pronounced KoM or Kadi. 

3 Farther south the Fulmar is called the Mollie-moke; hence the " mollie," or 
mild orgie on broad northern whalers. 

^ The following is the whole text of the letter upon the * ' Expected Eruption of 
Mount Hecla" (which did not take place): 

" Manse of Arbuthnott, July 2, 1872. 

*• Sir, — Will you permit me to add the following to your paragraph with the above 
heading in the Scotsinan of to-day ? While doubling Cape Eeikianess, the south-west 


that " a new Geyser had burst out at a point a short distance 
inland, and about twenty miles in a south-westerly direction from 
Keikiavik, throwing up a vast column of water to a height of at 
least a hundred feet." The " same outburst was observed in full 
play on the homeward voyage of the ' Queen'" (June 11, 1874), 
and was held to be " premonitory of an eruption of Hecla." 
Had the writer looked at the large map of Iceland, he would have 
seen four blue circlets placed behind Eeykjanes to denote warm 
springs ; they are supposed to be the work of the Skaptarfells 
eruption, which, in 1783, threw up Nyoe, " the new island." The 
map of Iceland in Pontanus (1631) shows at this place a " fons 
commutans lanas nigras in albas." I may observe that in the 
first place we saw only steam, not water, or rather that we were 
too far off to distinguish anything but the former. Secondly, the 
weather was exceptionally still and rainy; and the damp air, 
deficient in barometric pressure, allowed vapours to rise high, 
whereas, under opposite conditions, they would be dispersed, or 
hug the ground. The Geysirs are said to rage more furiously in 
wet than in dry weather ; and on arrival at Eeykjavik we dis- 
tinctly observed the fumes of Laugarnes, which suggested the 
name " Eeeky Bay,"^ standing up in a tall, transparent column — 

promontory of Iceland, on tlie morning of Saturday, June 8, we saw a remarkable Geyser 
a few miles inland, shooting up water at regular intervals of about five minutes to a 
height of at least 100 feet. All on board v/ho had ever heard of the Great Geyser, so 
graphically described by Madame Ida Pfeiffer and others, but which is sometimes so 
unpolite as to keep sightseers waiting two days before it favours them with an exhibi- 
tion, were amazed at a spectacle so remarkable, and yet so unremarked by any who 
before us had visited Iceland. 

"After attending service at the church of Reikiavik on Sunday, I did myself the 
honour to call upon the Bishop of Iceland, an excellent, courteous old gentleman, who, 
if he does not dwell, like the Psalmist, in a ' house of cedar,' dwells, like his flock, in a 
house of Norwegian fir. He could not speak English, but he spoke French well. To 
him I mentioned the phenomenon we had seen, believing that he was as likely as any 
one to know whether or not it was new. He told me that he knew the district well, 
but that there was no Geyser there at his last visit ; that what we had seen, therefore, 
was quite new. In answer to my inquiry whether there had been any recent volcanic 
disturbance in the island, he informed me that there had been a violent earthquake in 
the northern region about the middle of April. This outburst of a new Geyser (which 
we observed in full play on our homeward voyage on Tuesday, June 11) and the earth- 
quake in the north, seem premonitory of an eruption either of Hecla, or of some other 
of the other seven mountains which Keith Johnston, in his Physical Atlas, marks as 
active volcanoes. I hope we shall shortly have a description of any such occurrence, if 
it do take place, from the graphic pen of Captain Burton, whose society made our out- 
ward voyage a rare treat. — I am, etc. 

"(Signed) R. M. Spence." 

^ Reyk = reek (Kelt. Ruagh, Rea,c, and Ruah, the German Rauch), seems to be 
a word common to the Aryan and Semitic families. Old philologists derive it 
from the Hebrew Ruach, Arab. Ruh or Rih, wind, breath, mind, spirit. Spinoza, 


it was not seen from the town during the rest of my three months' 
stay. I twice voyaged past the site of my friend's " new Geysir;" 
every glass was pointed shorewards, but none succeeding in 
detecting the least trace of water or vapour. In 1862 Mr Sym- 
ington (p. 46) observed " steam rising from a hot sulphur spring 
on the coast" near Eeykjanes. Finally, as will be seen, Icelanders 
who have visited the spot describe the features as " Hverar," 
caldrons, boiling fountains; or as " Laugar," baths, tranquil 

The Fire Isles being hidden by fog, our attention was drawn 
to the mosquito flotilla of fishing-boats around us, each confined 
to its beat by the various buoys and buckets. The general 
appearance of the craft is that of the Shetlands; Mr Spence 
compared them with the " Westrse skips," but the Icelander is 
not nearly so solid as ours. The largest carry two low masts, 
both strongly supported by backstays; they are clinker-built, 
high at stem and stern, with a sharp projection for the rudder, 
which fits loosely into two iron eyes, and which often proves 
worse than useless. A transverse section forms the letter V; 
the planks belly out little, probably for facility of hauling up : 
the latter process, especially when the sun is hot, renders them 
exceptionally leaky, and want of care causes them to last for a 
very short time. There is no such thing as a decked boat in 
sight ; the total of sixty-one to sixty-three which exists in the 
whole island being almost confined to shark catching on the 
north coast, whilst there are 3092 open boats, with from two to 
twelve oars. Eow boats are preferred on account of the number 
of hands they feed ; and hence the unusual loss of adult males, 
which is said to average forty per cent, drowned. At all times 
the crews must run three to six miles out before arriving at 
their ground, and repeat the task after work — a vast waste of 
time and toil. The craft has plenty of what the French call 
pied, and will not hesitate to cross the Faxa Fjor5, some fifty 
miles broad. The ballast is composed of basalt blocks, and the 
numerous sails are mere strips of cloth, for greater convenience 
of lowering. The oars are remarkably narrow, the rule even in 

the Hebraist, translates, apparently with reason, '* Ruach Elohim" (the Spirit 
of Elohim or Gods, Gen. i. 2) by "a strong wind." 


" The Islands," ^ a precaution rendered necessary, it is urged, by 
the strong currents. I strongly suspect it to be the mere effect 
of " father-to-son " principle. Below the handle, the shape is a 
heavy square, on the principle of the Ehine and the Kaikjis on 
the Bosphorus. The oars fit into coarse thwarts, lined with hoop- 
iron, or they play upon rude wooden pins doubled to the fore. 
The stroke is very long and slow, hardly to be recommended for 
Oxford and Cambridge ; and of course feathering is impossible. 
Iceland nets are ridiculously small, and are floated by gourd- 
shaped bottles of Danish manufacture, closed at the mouth : 
these glass balls are also used by Norwegian fishermen. At 
the capital there are no lighters ; farther north they will show 
themselves, shaped like the fisher -boats, but many -ribbed as 
herrings. Evidently the first want is a decked vessel of from 
twenty to thirty tons, which would employ fewer hands, and 
show better returns. 

The smaller craft are four-oared, and at the landing-place we 
shall find two-oared boats : not a gig is to be seen, and the highest 
authorities must embark and disembark, if they cannot borrow 
from a man-of-war, in these receptacles of slime and filth. The 
seat is a mere perch, decidedly not comfortable ; baling with the 
little wooden scoup is hardly ever thought of, and all are equally 
wet and greasy. We read in the Sagas of " long ships," of dragon 
ships, and of merchantmen, whose common complement was 
some thirty oars : the figure-heads of the Vikings were so fright- 
ful that they terrified the Land-vsettir, or local genii ; and the 
decks were protected by awnings, and "girdled for war" by 
shield being laid to shield on rims or rails.^ Truly, the mariners 
of Iceland have lost much by staying at home in ease; and 
piracy evidently had its advantages. 

The crews of these outlandish " skips " are as degenerate as 
their craft. Silken kirtles, gilded helms, and spears inlaid with 
gold, are as unknown to them as the " Bisons " and " Serpents " 

1 "Eyjar" is often used of the Western Isles, Orkneys, Shetlands, and Soder 
or Suder (SuSr-ey, south isle, whence the diocese of Soder and Man). In south 
Iceland it is also applied to the Vestmannaeyjar. 

2 One of the earliest forms of armour-plating, the old defence still survives in 
the nettings of our bulwarks. 

VOL. I. X 

322 ULTIMA thule; or, 

which caused " a furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine!" to 
be inserted into the monkish litany. The men are good for fine 
weather, but in danger all become captains ; very different from 
the Danish sailor. The comfortable primitive costume is gone ; 
the Stakkr, hide blouse or jacket, extending from the neck and 
fastened round the waist; the large Saeskor, or water-boots; 
and the Leistabraekr, or stocking breeks, also lightly laced about 
the middle. The moderns are clad much like our fishermen; 
they have, however, sensibly preserved the long-flapped " sou'- 
wester," now " out of fashion " in Great Britain. They seem to 
rejoice in wet feet, wearing three or four pair of coarse woollen 
socks, which serve to retain the water. The only peculiarity of 
their dress is the Iceland glove, which even the shepherd and 
the mountain-guide will never doff. Tor the convenience of a 
dry and clean side near the palm, it has two thumbs, one pro- 
jecting from the little finger, as if all were sexdigitati, like the 
Shaykhs of the Fazli clan near Aden. Little or no provision is 
taken on board, and the chief luxury is snuff, the pinch being 
spread in line from the root of the thumb upwards, somewhat 
after the style of the original Scotch " sneeshin' mull ;" at times 
the flask is raised to the nose, and poured in till that member, 
which ought here to be placed bottom upwards, is filled. These 
water-ousels reap golden harvests of cod during the season, some- 
times clearing per diem ten rixdoUars a-head ; and if you hire a 
Eeykjaviker two-oar for the afternoon, you will not pay less 
than $5. They are rarely long-lived. Privations, fatigue, and 
hardships, wet feet, poor food, and defective hygiene soon get 
the better of the " triste laboureur de r ocean:" weakened by 
psora and ascarides ; by obstinate coughs, measles, and hypo- 
chondria, he soon becomes a victim to chronic rheumatism, 
which will bend the fingers permanently back, and he dies 
early " of visceral or pulmonary affections, gout, or paralysis. 
Better a life of a canvas -back shooter on the banks of the 

After Eeykjanes we bore north (magnetic) along a shore 
exceptionally populous : farmsteads and chapels, each perched 
upon its own knoll, and not unlike the clachans of Lewis, formed 
a straggling line, black and gloomy, surrounded by walls of dry 


stone. We turned eastward off " Skagi Point," ^ a long thin 
lingula with a beacon at the tip, and with a dwarf enceinte of 
dry stone inland, probably a look-out in the old Vikingr days. 
Steaming across the big back-bay towards the next headland, 
SuSrnes, afforded us for some moments an agreeable surprise. 
Eight over the gulf called Faxa FjorS, and distant some forty 
miles, rose a long broken dorsum of snow-range, not unlike the 
Friuli section of the Carnian Alps, the continuation of beautiful 
Cadore, as seen in winter from the Eive of Trieste. Here, how- 
ever, the projection, a sister to that of Eeykjanes, was terminated 
by the crescent-shaped head of Snaefell, the western JokuU, 
whose two cusps at once denoted the extinct crater-cup. The 
Ti^ve towered in the lift, catching a golden gleam which beauti- 
fully burnished the virgin silver, whilst above and below it slaty 
clouds were based upon a darker sea now smooth and mirrory as 
oil. The travelled few on board pronounced the spectacle grander 
than Mont Blanc from the Hotel de la Eussie, Geneva, but the 
fair vision was transient, and presently a bonnet de nuit of chilly 
lowering mist settling down made it a " Pileatus." To the 
north-east, and far nearer, stretched the long sea-arm Hvalfjor5, 
an inverted arch, with its two giant steeples Akrafjall and Esja, 
w^hilst the scarps of SkarSsheiSi formed the bottom of the great 
cul de sac. Passing clouds of pseudo-columnar shape, here a 
common feature, simulated volcanic smoke ; mountain head and 
shoulders were streaked with snow, whilst at their feet brooded 
the sea-fog, a horizontal line of blue mists broken and detached. 
Presently the rain came on again, and perforce we confined our 
attention to the features close ahead. 

The pilot now boarded us, leaving his cockleshell in charge of 
his mate, an angry water-rat with otter-like features, the usual 
fishy eye, and gold ear-rings, the general usage. We made 
straight for the little archipelago, which in this weather appears 
part of the mainland. The nearest item was Akrey : as craft in 
harbour can be seen to the south-east, and that direction leads 
straight to shipwreck, " Cornfield Isle," a mere grass-grown 
bulge of rock, has an outlying buoy to the north-east, w^arning 

^ English tautology. Skagi (in Shetland Scaw or Skaw, e.g., the Skaw of Unst) 
is a low cape opposed to HofSi, a high headland (Cleasby). 


US off its long projecting point. The next feature left to port is 
Engey of the eider duck, a mound provided with the long, 
curving and knobbed tail of a scorpion. Then came Offirs-ey,^ a 
bit of turf-clad basalt, in places sub-columnar: a red buoy, 
" stone-men " and a beacon, give warning that its spit is also 
dangerous. About Offirs-ey and Akrey are two islets, the Hol- 
mar: the larger and outer, homhe and slightly grassy, is the 
Sker (skerry), or Selsker (little -farm- skerry) ; and the other, 
dignified by the name of Grand Holmr, connects, like Ofifirs-ey, 
with the shore at low water by a traversable natural causeway. 
The other islets are YiSey (wood or withy eyot), which we shall 
presently visit, and Lund-ey (puffin eyot), at the mouth of Kolla- 
fjorS (ewe firth) : there are also sundry shoals and banks scat- 
tered about to the north and west, making the outer roads of 
Eeykjavik safe enough except when the storm-wind blows from 
the north-east or the east-north-east. 

The amount of shipping surprised us when we remembered 
that the first steamers appeared here in 1854-55. In the roads lay 
a French frigate, " Le Cher," Capitaine Alfred le Timbre, looking 
taunt and gay : her consort, " Le Beaumanoir," Capitaine Maylet, 
will soon come in from the east. The Danish gun-boat " Fylla," 
the waiting-maid of Frygga, had lately been outside sounding 
in preparation for the telegraphic cable : she is a sister ship of 
the " Diana," which also flies a pennant, and which to-morrow 
will land the governor of the island. The " Jon SigurSsson " had 
just left, and the " Yarrow " lay inside amongst eight square- 
rigged ships bearing the flags of various nationalities, whilst, 
drawn up ashore, was a Noah's ark, in the shape of a Danish 
galliot, almost circular, like the old Dutch dogger or the modern 
Russian monitor. Five to six steamers in port argued well for 
progress within the last twenty years, and presently we shall see 
the " Heimdall," called after the giant foe of Loki.^ This school- 
ship for the Danish navy is a frigate (Captain Skowstrup), 
freighted with thirty-six cadets — a rather noisy lot. An English 
yacht which floats like a sea-bird will also astonish the 

^ Originally Orfiris-eye, whicli has been explained under Orfir of the Orkneys. 
^ Heimdall was the doorkeeper of the gods, who kills and is killed by Loki. 


The aspect of Eeykjavik from the sea is more unlike its de- 
scription by travellers than, perhaps, anything that I have yet 
seen — even Humboldt's Tenerife. One expects, after the Hauran- 
like profile of the coast, to see a "Giant City of Bashan" rising from 
the waves. Old sketches suggest the " negative features" of John 
Barrow, the miserable show of a few tarred pent-roofs topping 
the black shingle, but free trade has changed all that. Even on 
this dull day, when it looks its worst, we cannot call its aspect 
" triste, morne, desole." Where, again, are the gaudy colours 
noticed by Mr Bryson ? We see nothing but dingy- white, dull- 
gamboge, verging on rhubarb, slate-grey, and tar-black, a perfect 
contrast with the Norwegian town — 

*' Where tawdry yellow strives with dirty red." 

At both extremities, east and west, the ground is stony, and 
rudely-formed basaltic pillars line the water, guarding ragged 
scatters of fishermen's huts. The right point (west) is called the 
Hli5ar-lius (lith -house), a classical name. On the left a grassy 
earthwork and a flagstaff still remain to remind us of a quaint 
passage in local history. Icelanders are much given to boasting 
that their island, which contains the population of a third-rate 
English town, was never conquered ; that Thule is still invida. 
Yet in 1809, Mr Sam. Phelps, of London, a soap boiler, who con- 
sidered himself aggrieved by the authorities, landed a dozen jail- 
birds from Gravesend, and forcibly took possession of the capital. 
He established an independent republic under the wing of Eng- 
land; and his Cromwell was a Danish seaman, Hr Jorgen Jorgen- 
sen, "Protector of Iceland, and Commander by sea and land." This 
Dictator, a bad Masaniello, seems to have acted with peculiar 
energy: he threw up the redoubt; armed it with six small cannon, 
brought from BessastaSir; and hoisted over it the flag of independ- 
ence, three slit cods (stockfish) argent in an oval garland, on a champ 
azure. Better, at any rate, than Yarmouth, with its three bloaters ! 
The ridiculous affair was squashed by an English frigate, the 
" Talbot" (Captain Jones): the earthwork was disarmed, and the 
guns were thrown upon the beach ; whilst " Mercator Phelps," as 
Bishop Petursson calls him, Jorgensen, & Co., were removed to 
England. It was the second time that the island, "bound in 


with the triumphant sea," nearly fell to the "Britishers'" lot.^ 
Christian II. was upon the point of pledging it, as the Orkneys 
and Shetlands were temporarily transferred to the Scottish Crown, 
but he was deposed before the bargain was struck. 

Between the points lies the inner or boat harbour, clear water 
in which floats a crop of " sea- ware," especially the long, tufty 
hair of the Hoy or Haar-teari (Fucus acideatus) : it is supposed 
by some to have named the Faeroe Islands. But, however clean 
the water, it is considered too cold for uso esterno; and the English 
eye at once misses the machines and sheds and other appur- 
tenances of a bathing place. The ripple is confined by unclean 
black sand, strewed with boards, nets, and offals of all kinds, 
especially thorsk or cods' heads. There are fair landing-places, 
plank pierlets, kept steady by caissons full of stones, and not 
removed in winter: the traveller may see the same style all round 
the coast, and perhaps he will remember making Venice through 
the " Murazzi." The principal buildings, beginning from the 
right as you face the town, are the Glasgow House, the Bridge- 
house, the Post -office, the Club, the merchant stores, and the 
coal-depots belonging to the Government and to Mr Slimon. 
Behind rises the steepled Dom-Kirkja (cathedral), and we see 
with pleasure that the College, alias the Latin School, is larger 
and more important than Government House. The tenements 
mostly face the beach ; the roofs, pitched steep against the snow, 
are slated or boarded ; tiles are common, and turf is preserved 
only by the poorest. They are built of planks like Valparaiso, 
earthquakes being not unfrequent ; but I could hear only of one 
fire — a notable contrast to the " Vale of Paradise," where the 
stone house is impossible, and where being burnt out is purely a 
question of time. Above the west point is the Catholic chapel 
and a windmill ; the winds can never be very violent, or this 
thing would soon be blown up like a tent high in the air. The 
opposite rise is garnished with another windmill, also lacking 
steerer ; and with a double -storied tower of solid masonry, called 
the Observatory. The surface of the upper country has that dull, 
dark-green tint, so difiicult to shoot against, and so characteristic 

^ I dismiss tlie " Iceland Revolution" in a few lines, for Baring-Gould (Introd. 
xlii.) has given a very complete account, borrowed from Hooker and Mackenzie. 


of the Emerald Isle in early autumn. The people complain that 
the rains have been scant this year, that hay will be scarce and 
dear, that the fishing season has been bad, and so forth. The 
inland view is bounded by a long, unbroken range, which we 
shall see on the first clear day. 

All Eeykjavik assembled to gape and chat upon the shore, 
whilst a torrent of strangers poured on board. They were 
assailed with questions by the tourists, and the answers were 
satisfactory as usual. The Hotel had been abolished. The Club 
did not receive guests ; never a room was to be had for love or 
money. We must pitch tents upon the beach — pleasant during 
this weather, a bad November in England 1 There was hardly a 
riding-pony within fifteen miles, although some four hundred 
were awaiting embarkment. Guides were unprocurable, all 
hands at Eeykjavik being thoroughly engaged, and the telegraph 
scheme making even the idlest unwilling to take temporary ser- 
vice. No one would change sovereigns for rixdollars. At the 
same time, if we would put ourselves unreservedly in the hands 
of our kind and courteous informants, who were of the horsiest, 
we might possibly find lodgings, ponies, guides, dollars. 

Before landing, I discipline myself severely. From London 
and Edinburgh, even from Leith, the fall to Eeykjavik being 
heavy, the traveller's eye is apt to view everything through a 
jaundiced medium, and the consequence is undue depreciation. 
Everywhere, and at all times, it is difficult to find a standing 
point of comparison from which to prospect persons and things, 
and which shall be fair to the subject, and intelligible to the 
reader. One man sets out with " the City " in view, and is 
called a "Cockney traveller;" another and a numerous class 
looks at matters through the spectacles of civilised life in 
England, perhaps the easiest way when writing for Englishmen ; 
whilst those who have seen much of the world make themselves 
unintelligible and unpleasant (myself, alas !) by drawing parallels 
between scenes unknown or unfamiliar to their Public, who re- 
sents the implied slight accordingly. Hence it is generally said 
that works of exploration are mostly read only because they 
must be read, and that the book which treats of the land best 
known to us is that which gives the highest enjoyment. For 


here we have the pleasure of comparing the impressions made 
by the same things upon the writer's mind and upon our own, 
a process far more personal and more satisfactory than mastering 
mere discoveries or pursuing a tale of extraordinary adventure, 
which we often only half believe. And when reading travels in 
absolutely new lands, we feel that we are reading the opinions 
of another man, without the concurrence which alone can check 
them. But the veteran voyager is a practical " Pantisocrat," 
and he must especially adopt the advice of Juvenal : 

** Audeat ille palam qui vidit, dicere vidi." 

And nowhere is greater care required than in studying a mother- 
city, the characteristic of its race, the living photograph; the 
manifest expression of its manners and customs, and especially 
of its short-comings. " Capitals represent doctrines." Apply 
this to the old drab-coloured utilitarian London, now happily 
passing away, with its boxes of mean brick and of hideous 
"stone -colour," where every man's house, reckless of order, 
regularity, and economy of space, was his castle, small, dull, and 
dry as the educated mind ; with its Belgravian " palaces " and 
wretched porticos, which an hour with a crowbar would de- 
molish, expressing a rental more than sufficient for a " hotel entre 
cour et jar din'' in Paris, Vienna, or Eome; with its utterly taste- 
less and artless works of art which sadden the civilised eye, 
looking, a foreigner observed, as if the foul fiend had scattered 
them flying; with its slushy and greasy streets, the richest 
population in the world being apparently too poor to keep them 
clean; and with its shops exposing, even in Bond Street, corpses 
of poultry, sheep, pigs, and cattle for the use of carnivorous 
denizens. We can hardly wonder when the "wild-cat corre- 
spondent" of the Yankee paper describes it as " a vast wilderness 
of dingy brick and stone, of huge half-empty palaces and roaring 
torrents of humanity — a money-snatching metropolis where vice 
and poverty herd and breed in filthy alleys behind the abodes of 
the great and wealthy." 

We bid adieu to the " Queen," 

'* That white- winged monastery moving still. 
Of rugged celibates against their will. " 


She leaves for England on the sixth day, and thus five of our 
fellow-passengers hardly find time for the shortest scamper 
across country. Her captain and her crew have claims upon 
our gratitude ; we are unanimous in declaring that all are good 
men and true, and in recommending them to the author of 
" Ship, ahoy 1" The old traveller ever prefers the English 
steamer, even at a sacrifice of comforts. He will find fair- 
weather sailors all the world over, but in the day of danger he 
will repent having added unnecessary risk to his travels. The 
French decision upon the conduct of the " Ville de Havre " — a 
disgrace to a civilised people — is another reason for carefully 
avoiding foreign craft. Under English, of course, I include 
Scandinavian and American (U.S.), and carefully exclude the 
average Latin race. Yet it is only fair to say that the P. and 0. 
boats in the Mediterranean have found it an excellent plan to 
engage Italian sailors, officered, of course, by Englishmen. The 
crews are quiet and trustworthy, thrifty, and hard-working ; a 
strong contrast with the turbulent, drunken, ne'er-do-weel which 
in these days too often represents the old man-o'-war's man. In 
England, a sentimental regard for the name " Jack " prevents 
our seeing the immense deterioration of the class owing to the 
mixture of " tailors " and good-for-nothing landsmen : my col- 
leagues of the Consular Service will, however, I think, agree 
with me that foreign port-towns would be benefited if many of 
the so-called " British sailors " were never allowed to put foot 




The latitude of Eeykjavik — the residence of the governor and 
the Supreme Court of Judicature, the episcopal see, and the 
chief mercantile station — is K 64° 8' 26'',^ a little higher than 
Norwegian Trondhjem (Thrandheimr),^ which English books 
and maps will write Drontheim, and about that of Archangel. 
In the map of Pontanus (1631) it does not appear. About A.D. 
1760 it became the chief port, although till seventy years ago it 
was a mere scatter of fishermen's huts sheltering some 700 
human beings. Travellers of the last generation. Hooker (1809) 

^ Reykjavlkr in the nominative sing, is an abstract linguistic fiction, from 
VIk (feminine), a bay, a wich {e.g., Greenwich). Travellers neglect the Icelandic 
termination, and even English literati omit the -r or -ur as superfluous and 
strictly correct only in the nominative, e.g., Leif for Leifr. From Vik, a bay, 
comes Viking, a baying-voyage, or seeking the shelter of bays, and Vikingr, a 
baying- voyager, or a voyager from the fjords. This word, sometimes written 
Vi-king in English, suggests a wrong etymology. Cleasby warns us that the 
termination -wick or -wich is Norsk only for maritime places, the inland "wicks" 
derive from the Latin vicus. Local names beginning with HeyJc are unknown 
to Scandinavians, and peculiar to Iceland where the pillars of steam must have 
struck the colonist's eye. 

2 Taken at the cathedral. The longitude (G.) given by Norie is W. 21° 51' 3", 
by Raper 21° 55' 2" ; Norie gives the lat. 64° 9' 0", Raper 64° 8' 4". The variation 
of the compass is roughly 35° off Berufjor'5; 35° 15' off the eastern JokuU ; and 
45° off Reykjavik : it was in 1814 (Henderson, i. 250) "two points towards the 
west ;" in 1840 (French charts) it was W. 43° 21'. M. Loftier (1838) made it 
43° 14' ; and in 1871 (Admiralty chart, by Captain Evans) it was 44°, still increas- 
ing at the rate of 5' per annum. Consequently the people have two norths — north 
by compass and true north, the latter at Reykjavik fronting the mountain -block 
AkraQall. The inclination (dip) of the magnetic needle (French chart of 1840) 
is 76° 45'. The vulgar Etahlissement du port (Hafenzeit, high water at full and 
change), French chart, is at 5h. Om. ; and the maximum height of the tides 5m. 
35 cent. The Admiralty tables give spring -tides a rise of 174 feet and the neaps 

^ The Dictionary translates it " home of the Thronds " (Thrsendir). 


and Mackenzie (1810), show the extent of improvement : in their 
day the townlet had only two streets — much like the Cowgate 
and Canongate of the last century. One line of buildings 
fronted the sea and another set off from it at right angles. Now 
we have a fair north-of-Europe port. It has lately risen from 
the 1000 or 1600 which travellers generally give it ; the sta- 
tionary population, according to the census of 1870, was 2024 
souls ; at this season, when the fair is approaching, we may add 
as a maximum 500. I need hardly say that the 50,000 of our 
hydrographic books is a misprint. 

The sacred pillars of Ingolf's Hall (ondugis slilur^), un- 
duly translated " door-posts," or " wooden door," probably chose 
Eeykjavik because it is the largest anchorage-ground in this 
" Canaan of the North," and his thralls were justified in reproach- 
ing their lord for preferring so rugged and barren a corner to the 
more fertile regions farther east. The harbour is dangerous only 
when the wind blows off the Esja massif, forcing ships to run out 
seawards, and the tides of late years have not flooded the town. 
The picturesque background will be described when we can see 
it. The site is on the northern side and near the point of the 
Seltjarnanes (Seal- tarn-naze), a peninsula, whose lowlands are 
digitated by the prevalent winds and driving seas. Henderson 
very poorly describes the town as " situate between two emin- 
ences that are partially covered with grass : " it is built on both 
gently-sloping sides of a dwarf river- valley draining the Tjorn 
(tarn), a lakelet to the south, about 800 yards long by 400 broad. 
The ditch which has evidently been much larger, and which 
some propose to deepen into a port, is crossed by some half-a- 
dozen bridges, one with iron rails painted vermilion ; it is in 

1 From "And," opposite, and "Vegr," an ** opposite seat," a "high seat." 
In the old timbered hall the benches (bekkr) were ranged along the walls with 
the two seats of honour in the middle facing one another. The northern, fronting 
the sun, was called Ondvegi seSra, first or higher high-seat, reserved for the master, 
and the other was UseSra, the lower or second, kept for the chief guest. In 
England the master and the mistress sitting opposite each other at table, may be 
a remnant of the old Scandinavian custom. The sides of the high seat were orna- 
mented with uprights (ondugis sulur) carved with figures, such as a head of 
Thor : these posts were regarded with religious honour and were thrown into the 
sea as guides. When a man of rank died, the son, after all rites performed, 
solemnly sat in his father's seat, as a sign of succession, but this was not done if 
the paternal murder remained unavenged (Cleasby). 

332 ULTIMA thule; or, 

the foulest condition ; but liere cleanliness is not next to 
godliness. Throughout Eeykjavik a smell of decayed fish 
prevails, making strangers wonder how it escapes pestilence 
and plague ; and the basaltic dust raised by the least breath of 
wind causes hands and face to be grimy as at Manchester or 

The mass of the settlement lies in the dwarf hollow of the 
streamlet, somewhat protected from the blasts, and straggles up 
both slopes of the rivulet-valley. But for this it would be un- 
pleasantly windy ; and, as is said of Landudno, between two 
waters is nearly as bad as between two fires. The neighbour- 
hood is a lean neck of flat and barren ground, with the sea to 
the north and south, whilst, in the former direction, the great 
HvalfjbrS inlet sharply cutting the Esja and the Akranes blocks, 
and backed by the snowy SkarSsheiSi, acts as a wind-sail. The 
same reason makes the rains exceptionally heavy. The shape is 
long-narrow for sea-frontage rather than deep, and the orienta- 
tion is puzzling as that of Hebron.^ I shall call the right flank 
of the valley east and the left west, although the correspondence 
is by no means exact. Along the shore runs Harbour Street 
(Hafnar Strseti), with the north side open to the bay : here are 
the chief stores and shops, the warehouses and coal-depots, the 
Club and the Post-office. At right angles, and to the west, a 
High Street (ASalstrseti) stretches some four hundred yards to 
the tarn : it begins from the head of the chief pierlet, passing 
under the archway of the Bryggju-htis (bridge- or pier-house),^ a 
place of customs, whose occupation long gone is now returning 
to it. Broad enough to dwarf the houses, macadamised and 
straight, like all the best thoroughfares which cross one another 
at right angles, it sounds hollow to the tread, as if walking upon 
a boiler — the "Eimbombo,"^ as Italians call it, not uncommon 
in newly made ground, which propagates sound. It is traversed 

1 There is a plan of Reykjavik, but the size of the scale keeps it in MS. Baring- 
Gould and others give ground sketches, which are now obsolete. 

^ In Icel. Bru is a bridge in our sense of the word ; Bryggja is a landing-place 
as well as a bridge. 

^ This hollow sound may be remarked even in the new town of Trieste, where 
a passing omnibus shakes the substantially-built stone houses. Such soil must 
be always the most dangerous in case of earthquakes, which are comparatively 
harmless on the adjacent hill- slopes. 


here and there by impure gutters, which are unwisely covered 
with iron-cramped boardings : I rejoice to hear that they were 
cleaned out for the royal visit. High Street abuts upon a 
square and wliitewashed wooden building, labelled Hospital in 
white letters on a blue ground : here is the chief pump which 
works a well 12 feet deep, and revetted with dry stone. The 
first aspect of the gabled tout ensemble strongly suggests Alder- 

Turning to the left we reach the AusturvoUr,^ or Eastern 
Square, a kind of Parsons Green, with three built sides, the 
fourth being still open towards the tarn. It is the regular 
camping ground for inland travellers who pitch their dwarf tents 
and peg their ponies where a handful of grass can be nibbled. 
Here is the " Cathedral," whose adjoining cemetery has now 
disappeared. The houses are built with the scant regularity of 
a Brazilian village ; they face in every direction towards the sea, 
or towards the rivulet-valley, and rarely southwards as they 
should do for the benefit of sun. With rare exceptions, they 
are all wooden frameworks of joists, filled as in Germany with 
basaltic slabs, and mortar blue with dark sand ; the walls are 
boarded over, as without the stone they would be unsupportably 
cold and hot. They are short-lived like the " skips," requiring 
frequent repairs, and rarely lasting beyond thirty or forty years : 
their endurance depends greatly upon the quality of the wood ; 
the maximum of age would be nearly a century, but only when the 
timber is not mixed with turf and peat, which, crumbling under 
sun and frost, causes early decay. Barents' house (built 1597), 
*' in the wilde, desart, irkesome, fearful!, and cold countrey" of 
Novaya Zemlja, was lately found (Captain Carlsen, 1871), 
uninjured by the dry air. On the other hand, the excessive 
damp renders danger of fire nugatory, compared with the wooden 
match-boxes called houses at Constantinople. It is to be wished 
that the tenements could be " telescoped " during the hot weather, 
as most families pass the whole year in town. Many of them 

1 The word Yollr (plur. Yellir, and gen. pi. Valla) means a field, and is akin 
to the German Wald. It often occurs in the plural, e.g., Reyni-vellir (Rowan 
plains) ; and "Thing- valla," the foreign way of writing, is properly Thing- 

334 ULTIMA thule; or, 

are revetted on the weather-side with imported slates, and all are 
numbered, even as the thoroughfares are provided with names. 
There is far more open ground than building, each "plant-a-cruive" 
being girt with planks or rails, useful for drying clothes, and 
showing no want of wood. The best plots are surrounded by 
wire, often a single strand, which has extended to the country 
parts, or by walls of dry stones ; the latter shelter the sterile 
dock, with here and there a stem of angelica, not unlike a wild 
artichoke. The land, neatly hoed in straight lines drawn 
between two pegs, and raked by the women, is planted with 
" Garden sass," especially parsley and fennel, kail and turnips ; 
fine cauliflowers, cabbage and potatoes ; the latter will not ripen 
till the end of August, when snow has left the mountain-tops. 
Eadishes must be set in boxes guarded by wooden hurdles or by 
nets to keep off the birds ; they are fair-sized but hollow and 
flavourless. The rare flowers are chiefly geraniums and fuchsias, 
pansies and marigolds ; but as in Norway and the North 
generally, flora flourishes best in pots behind the little half- 
blinded windows ; here the oleander will be a whole foot 
high. Of fruits, we find chiefly the hardy currant, and a few 
gooseberries and strawberries, with a southern exposure, mostly 
protected by glass. In 1810, it will be remembered, there was 
" not a single garden or vegetable of any kind growing in the 

On the right side of the main drain, and higher than the 
" Pelouse," rises the Latin School, ridge-roofed, tiled, coloured 
rhubarb-yellow, and provided with a shallow fa9ade of three 
windows, as many being pierced in both wings. To the south is 
the College Library, a plain building of large basaltic blocks, 
partially whitewashed ; the glass panes look as if they carried the 
dust of ages. Farther down stream, and a little above the right 
bank, is Government House, a substantial barn, also of white- 
washed stone, fronted by a well drained slope, and a bit of 
meadowland, courteously called a garden ; its dignity is denoted 
by a tall flagstaff. It was originally an almshouse, and a tugt- 
hiis (jail) ; old travellers tell us that, as the poor preferred its 
comforts to their wretched homes, it was not easy to keep certain 
citizens out of it. Count Trampe, a governor whose hospitable 


name is well remembered, especially by travellers, left it a one- 
storied building ; the present occupant added a second floor. The 
houses on a level with the open drain below are to be avoided ; 
the air during a sunny day is like that of a hot-house without 
the perfume, and the nights are stifling to an extent for which a 
stranger is not prepared. Here is the photographic establishment 
of Hr Eymundsson, who saves his guests expense as well as 

The houses of the " honoratiores," the " upper ten," are in the 
sole of the valley, and the east is here the " West End," boasting 
of the Palace, the Library, and the High School. Lower down 
lie the Bishop Petur Petursson; the Chief- Justice Hr Jonassen; 
the Land-Fogeti, or treasurer, Hr Thorsteinssen, who is also Bsear- 
Fogeti (Danice, By-foged) or mayor of the city; the Land-lseknir, 
or head physician of the island, Dr Jon Jonsson Hjaltalin ; the 
French Consul, M. Eandrup ; the editor of the local paper, Hr 
Procurator GuSmundsson ; the Postmaster, Hr Finsen ; and the 
college professors. The principal building on the west or left 
bank of the river- valley is the old " Glasgow House," which has 
passed through various phases. It was originally built by Messrs 
Henderson & Anderson for a dwelling-place and warehouse, as 
shown by the belvedere, the crane, and the dwarf tramway. 
When that firm came to grief by trusting to native agency, it 
became a hotel: hence the "Iceland Eeader," by Hr Lund says: 

*' Thar er gestgjafa hus" (here you will find a hotel) ; 
" ThaS er ekki slsemt" (it is not a bad one). 

But the hostelry followed the rule of all such civilised appliances 
in these regions — failed, and was sold to a Norwegian house. It 
fetched $6000 (rixdollars), and was a good bargain to the pur- 
chaser ; various debts were recovered, to the tune, they say, of 
nearly double the value. It is too big, the ceilings are too high, 
and the windows admit far too much air. 

The most characteristic part of Eeykjavik are the suburbs of 
the Tomthiismenn,^ or empty-house men, mostly fishermen who 
have no farms, and consequently no cattle. We will visit the 

^ Tomr, empty, is the Scotch **toom." 


west (not West) end built between a swamp abutting upon the 
sea, and the normal knobbed meadow-land, where a few cows 
fight against starvation. It is cut by a bit of made road, and 
another runs east to the Laxa or Salmon Eiver — these are the 
only Macadams in the island. The by-streets of our suburb 
become mere lanes, and the impasse is far more common than the 
thoroughfare. The few good houses of wood are raised upon 
foundations of basalt or brick laid edgeways, which keep out the 
damp like the piles of Fernando Po. They are entered by dwarf 
ladders, instead of the usual sandstone flags imported from 
abroad. These " magalia" wdll float otf to sea unharmed, like 
Gulliver's cage, and not break up for a long time. The empty- 
house men, who far outnumber all the other classes, adhere to 
what represents the Irish shanty, the cabin of the Far West, and 
the Eskimo's earth-covered hut. The primitive fashion, preserved 
even in the capital, is an oblong parallelogram of basaltic blocks, 
alternating with peats by way of mortar — cespite pro ccemento 
adhibito — where tons of mussels and shell-fish i cumber the shore. 
The houses look as if shoving shoulders together against the wind, 
rain, and snow. The walls are sunk in the surface to the extent of a 
few feet, beyond which the ground is never frozen;^ they are raised 
three or four feet high, with the same thickness as at the base, 
and battering a little inwards. One of the short ends is left open 
for a doorway; sometimes additional defence against wind is 
secured by a side-adit, a small, wooden, pent-roofed sentinel, like 
the office of an East Indian tent. This shell supports an acute- 
angled or equilateral triangle of wood: formerly birch boughs 
were used, now pine planks are largely imported from Denmark, 
as we see by the stacks scattered over the settlement. The 
steeply-pitched slopes, revetted with peat sods a foot square, yield 
a superior crop of grass — a hint of what may be done by " scalp- 
ing " and draining. The gable generally shows the wood well 
daubed with blistering tar, which soon turns red and rusty; here 
are mostly two single-paned, white-framed windows, the larger 

^ I particularly remarked the beautiful shell, striped white and brick -red, tlie 
Horpu-diskr, Peden Islandicus, or Iceland clam. The krakuskel, or Mytilus edulis, 
is eaten by foxes. 

2 Native authorities differ as to the depth where frost extends. I heard a maxi- 
mum of eight feet, even in the lowlands. 



one lighting the gun deck or lower floor, and the smaller the 
upper deck, loft or garret. The old chimney was a tub ; now 
there is an iron tube or a square pipe of bricks : a cowl like a 
" fly-cray," two bits of flat wood attached to a perpendicular, and 
moving with the wind, cures smoking; and where there is a 
weather-cock, it is the bird that warned Peter of his fall. Some 
of the larger establishments will have four or five of these pointed 
gables ; and the smaller are often so small that we admire how 
human beings can get into them. 


The characteristic building of the fishermen's quarter is the 
Hjallr,^ or " wind-house," acting like the Skeo of the Scoto-Scan- 
dinavian islands ; which, however, is a mere shed of dry stones. 
Here it is mostly an open cage of wooden uprights and stretchers, 
roofed over against the weather — a superior style of drying fish, 

1 The word Hjallr, the Faeroese Kiadlur, is akin to Hjalli and Hilla (English 
hill), a shelf or ledge in the mountain-side, and hence a scaffold ; the full term for 
the fish-shed is Fisk -hjallr (Cleasby). 

VOL. I. Y 


especially cod. The body is either hung upon a line (hengi-fiskr 
or flattr-fiskr), or salted and stretched upon a rock (harSr-fiskr).^ 
When dry and ready for embarking, it is heaped up on the beach 
and covered with stone- weighted boards. Even more unpleasant 
features are the vats and pits in the ground, where sharks' 
livers^ and cods' sounds and bladders are left to form, with the 
addition of a little iodine, cod-liver oil. After this we cannot 
complain of the salting operation, done usually in some old 
ship's tank. 

The beach is the normal scene of a European fishing village, 
a chaos of anchors, old masts and spars, nets and wooden floats, 
clothes and waterproofs hung up to dry ; blue petroleum barrels 
from Scotland ; big piles of wrack-thatched turf, and drawn-up 
boats, the sails being left, whilst the rudders are taken home. 
We see some three carts in one place. Travellers in the early 
nineteenth century tell us that not even a wheelbarrow can be 
found at Eeykjavik : now hand-carts stand in every business 
street, and at times a carriage drawn by two ponies, and full of 
people, attracts every head to the window. When the made 
road shall be prolonged east and west, the settlement will be- 
come civilised, as our Accra on the Gold Coast. 

The rude succedaneum for the wheelbarrow, which still lingers 
even at Trieste, is a straight stretcher carried by two men. But 
the race is thoroughly unmechanical, as we might expect from 
its social state. A local philanthrope gave one of the peasants 
a small sledge, to save him from trudging under a heavy box 
over the deep snows; the consequence was that the box was 
slung to the back, whilst the sledge depended down the breast. 
This reminds me of S'a Leone, where a British negrophile 
sent sundry wheelbarrows for the benefit of the " poor black " 
navvies : the barrows were duly filled with earth, and hoisted 

1 Henderson confounds the "Klip-fish" (Danish, Klippe, a rock), which is 
cleaned, salted, and stacked, with the stock-iish or dry-fish, simply split, washed, 
sunned, and turned by the women. The latter forms the national staff of life, 
and is not exported. " Fiskr" in Icelandic is especially applied to cod, trout, 
and salmon. 

^ The Maskat Arabs eat shark-meat, but they never apply the oil to the skin, 
considering it a caustic ; rubbed into ship bottoms, it is supposed to defend the 
wood from worms. 


upon the negro's head, where he wisely carries everything, even 
his toothpick. Many of these iishermen have been sailors, and 
the chances are, that if the Cockney traveller chaff them with, 
for instance, "How did you leave the old 'ooman?" they will 
straightway reply, "A' right, s'r!" They touch their hats as 
strangers pass, but this patriarchal custom will soon disappear 
before the presence of steamers. The children clamber about 
the boats, and swing by cords from the masts even as Bedawin 
boys play upon camels' backs ; they toss up with fish tails; they 
chase the black cats like the denizens of Lilliput-Land ; they 
bully the dogs, and they harness a pig on the rare occasions 
when one lands. " Gi' me a skilling!" the " Gie me a yap'ny" 
of Wales, is sometimes heard — in fact " bakhshish " is not utterly 
unknown in these hyperborean lands. Yet it is only fair to 
confess that not a single professional beggar is to be seen at 

Our hunt for lodgings ended in a short and sharp run in. A 
young Englishman, who had spent some time here, led us ashore. 
After rejecting the noisy tavern, and vainly seeking shelter at 
the Hospital,^ whose civil matron was once the handsomest 
woman in the island, we presently found cover under the roof 
of Frii Jonassen, sister of Geir Zoega, the guide, and married to 
a Dane, whose over-affection for Bacchus confines him mostly to 
his couch. The house deserves description : it is the normal 
bourgeois dwelling-place of the capital, very different from that 
of the country. The little box is revetted with rhubarb-coloured 
boarding, and covered by a black tarred board-roof Its entrance 
debouches upon a hall no bigger than a bird cage, with a door to 
the right and the left ; you must duck head as you enter them, 
and — never forget this precaution in Iceland. The first piece is 
a bedroom some 15 feet long by 8 broad and 8 high; the single 
window has a half blind, but neither curtains nor shutters. 
Strangers complain loudly of such an unnatural thing as the broad 
glare of day at midnight, and indeed the effect of a horizontal 
sun, impinging upon the ground, is not very unlike the noon of 

^ There was one corpse at the Hospital ; the death had been caused by delirium 

340 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

an English November. At first, we envy those on board ship 
who can darken their cabins. Sound sleep is difficult under the 
stimulus of light which allows you to read the smallest print ; 
presently we secure it by hanging up one of the dame's flannel 
petticoats. The people, and especially the children, seem to 
take their rest at and till any hour : the maternal admonition 
" Ten o'clock, go to sleep " is here unknown ; the " early to bed " 
of the proverb, and the doctor's dictum about the benefits of 
slumber before midnight, are clean forgotten. I puzzle myself 
to divine how a Moslem would time his prayers in Iceland. 

The bedroom contains two apple-pie-shaped box-beds, some 
three feet long, which startle the traveller till he sees them 
drawn out; they are covered with the familiar eider-down 
coverlet of Germany, under which you may perspire and freeze 
to your heart's content : no wonder when, next to hare's fur, it 
offers the greatest obstacle to heat-transmission, consequently 
you always kick it off. Presently we shall exchange the vile 
eider-down pillows and coverlet for a clean waterproof blanket, 
and dislodge our pests by means of the insecticide powder in- 
vented in near Dauphine, and consequently derived by commer- 
cial humbug from distant Persia. The " B flat " at once put in 
an appearance, and the people accounted for it by some German 
musicians having lately been their lodgers : we afterwards 
found that the pest is not indigenous, and similarly it has 
been imported into the Fairoe Islands from Copenhagen. The 
livelier animalcule is well — too well — known. The sitting- 
room inside is also wainscotted, and of the four shutterless 
windows, only half of one is made to open; they are never 
doubled, which shows that the cold cannot be intense; yet 
at times the wind must whistle through them as through a 

Each room has a stove, backed by a blackened wall, the best 
are the tall German cylinders, and fire is the cote faihle of the 
capital. A little heap of peat smoulders in the kitchen behind 
the bedroom, and thus hot water, a prime necessary, is very 
scarce. The furniture consists of a central drugget, a round 
dinner- table, a square writing ditto, a work-table, a commode, 
a tall armoire, and sundry horsehair chairs, with a sofa, which 


must often act bed. In the rear of the kitchen is a microscopic 
pantry wherein it is not good to peer. Above us, a grenier 
occupies the sharp angle under the roof ; here the family lives, 
and there is no sleep between 6.30 a.m. and 11 p.m.; they seem 
always to be clearing the decks for action. At the back of the 
house a yard reeks with impurities, and on both sides cages for 
drying fish give the well-known ancient smell. That human 
beings can live and enjoy health in the "stifled filth" of 
Damascus ; of Mile-end, Old Town, or of Trieste (Citta Vecchia), 
argues, they say, peculiar excellence of climate, and the deduc- 
tion certainly applies to Eeykjavik. 

The comely middle-aged dame, who speaks a few words of 
English, has no children except those whom, after popular Ice- 
landic fashion, she has adopted. An aged Cinderella, a bundle 
of waste dry-goods, hardly human, haunts the kitchen, whilst 
Christiana, an artificial daughter of the house, is the Kellnerin. 
She is a good-looking lass with the fresh complexion and the 
Uond cendre hair, one of Iceland's charms, which are here the 
rule ; her dress is fine Wadmal of dark colour ; and her large feet, 
which terminate solid supporters, are encased in the island 
slippers, giving a peculiarly lumping tread : a bright plaid apron 
and a grey woollen shawl for visiting, complete her toilette. She 
never knocks at the door and she slams it with a hideous noise 
— the neat-handed Phyllis and the light fantastic toe have not 
yet come so far north. When serving us she ejaculates mechani- 
cally " Vsersgu," the Danish " Vser saa god " — be so kind — ex- 
tensively used throughout Scandinavia, and now imported into 
Iceland. Mightily dull of apprehension she appears, especially 
after the sharp-witted Syrians, and the dialogue with us Anglo- 
Indians is frequently as follows : 

" Here you, Kitty, heitt vatn. . . . Why, you don't know 
your own language ! Water hot ! " 

Answer passive and stolid : " HvaS ? " 

" Oh what a girl you are ! Samajta ? You almost deserve to 
have a vote. I say, ' water hot ! ' " 

" HvaS segiti " (what say ye) ? 

" Will you have a drink, Kitty ? Where's mamma ? Hot 
WATER, I tell you." 


" Hva3 segiS ther " (what do you say) ? 
And so forth, ad infinihtm. Yet in Iceland Jomfru (Icel. Jung- 
fru) Christiana is the gem of a waiteress, and in her leisure 
moments she will act hacheliere es lettres — in fact, she readily 
adapts herself to our little bachelor ways. 

Fru Jonassen agrees to lodge and find us in " small breakfast " 
or early coffee, and big breakfast at ten A.M., for $1, 3m. Osk. (say 
3s. 5d.) per diem, and for an equally reasonable sum to house 
our spare goods when travelling. Washing is of course cheap 
where there are so many feminine spare hands.^ The tea is vile, 
having been drunk at least once. Water is almost through- 
out Iceland excellent, cold, clear, and slightly flavoured with 
iron, like the sparkling produce of the Hauran and other basaltic 
lands. Coffee and brennivin (schnapps) may be called the national 
drink, and the people pride themselves upon the former : after 
our senna-like potions farther south it is admirable, but it must 
not be compared with that of the nearer East. The bean is 
never good, even England cannot afford the true Mocha mono- 
polised by the United States : still it is never stinted,^ and it 
lacks the odious chicoree so popular across the Channel. It is 
burnt black instead of brown as in Arabia ; it is milled in lieu 
of being pounded, and the brew is made in a venerable flannel 
strainer-bag placed where the kettle's lid should be. The con- 
sumption is even more extensive than in Germany : large cups 
and sometimes bowls are served strong and hot several times 
a day, and are always offered to the stranger guest. Some find 
fault with the excess, but they forget that coffee prevents waste 
of tissue, and that a heating drink is necessary in cold, damp 
climates where the diet is poor. The sugar is white loaf, and 
the cream thick as curds, we never see such luxury in England; 

1 The " boiled shirt " costs 12 skillings = 3d. 
Flannel ,, „ 8 ,, = 2d. 

Socks and collars ,, 3 ,, = l^d. 
Kerchiefs and white ties 2 ,, = Id. 
You must be pretty careful, however, unless you wish your linen to go the way of 
all washing in all lands. 

^ I was once asked at an English country-house to show how coffee is made in 
Arabia ; the housekeeper's only remark was, " It is easy to make coffee like Cap- 
tain Burton if one may use so much ! " But the Arab system, though simple as 
it is scientific, cannot be learnt without long practice. 


sheep's milk is kept for cheese, and Eeykjavik ignores the national 

At seven a.m. we have cafe an lait, rusks, white bread and brown, 
or rye loaf, which we all prefer. Breakfast is substantial as in 
northern Scotland. The staple is fish, notably cod, boiled or 
grilled, but all poor, small, and watery : a " head and shoulders " 
equal in size or flavour to those of our own country is rare as 
the Spatium admirabile rhombi farther south. " Tout ce qui 
vous plait — mais pas de poisson " is the frame of mind which 
soon follows pure ichthyophagy. Meat is always mutton, the liver 
and kidneys being apparently preferred ; " Carnero no es carne," 
says the Gaucho, and at last we sigh for the Murghi (fowl) at 
which the Anglo-Indian turns up his sybaritical nose. Hens' 
eggs are equally uncommon ; those of the eider-duck, boiled hard, 
are rarely wanting at this season. They are about as large as 
turkeys', with dirty-green shells, and very white albumen ; the 
stranger enjoys them at first, but, like the Pallo fish of Sind and 
the " palm-oil chop " of Guinea, they are too rich ; they pall 
upon the palate, and they are pronounced to be rancid and 
gluants ; besides which they are rarely quite fresh, the one vir- 
tue of an ^gg. Potatoes are not always to be had ; those grown 
in the island are waxy and taste like soap ; the best are im- 
ported from Denmark and even these cannot be praised. 

It must be observed that the Eeykjavik lodging-house has a 
great advantage over that in England, which exists by petty 
overcharges and by small robberies. Here also a strange 
tongue and foreign habits conceal that fearful caricature of 
" society " ever prominent at home. The chief bane of poverty 
is not so much that it renders man ridiculous, as that it brings 
him into contact with a life-form of which only Mr Punch can 
make fun. I envy the richard in civilisation only because the 
talk of the Vestibule does not reach the Peristyle : his wealth 
removes him from all knowledge of what is going on within a 
few yards of him, the mean jealousies, the causeless hatreds, 
the utter malice and uncharitableness which compose " high life 
below stairs." 

By way of simulating civilised existence we converted the 
tavern into a club, and dined there daily. It is the usual little 



board-house in the High Street, and the northern wall backs 
a couple of trees some five feet high, the Sorbier, or service 
apple (Sorhus aucicparia). Another may be seen in the gover- 
nor's " compound," but apparently one-half of it has lately paid 
the debt of nature. The dining-room is a stuffy little box, and 
it is useless to open the windows as they will at once be shut. 
Often some unwashed and burly traveller from the country pre- 
cedes us for a feed ; a sewing-machine awaits our departure, and 
we are serenaded by the monotonous croon of the nurse above. 
Sometimes she breaks out into " Champagne Charley," with the 
true British " rum-ti-tiddy " style of performance. The capital 
has evidently forgotten the " beautiful lullaby," Ljuflingsmal, 
composed by a calf-father, and sung at the window; but we 
have an abundance after this fashion : 


Et sic ad infinitum. 

On the other side of the hall is the drinking saloon, and beyond 
it the billiard-table, a highly primitive affair in which the slower 
balls describe graceful segments of circles : the Eussian game is 
the favourite, and " the price is a penny — it is no more." The 
dingy little room is mostly crowded in the evening, peasants and 
visitors in rags act wall-flowers, whilst the jeunesse dor^e per- 
forms in the centre — yet note that neither Kirkwall nor Lerwick 
owns a billiard-room. Groups gather at the tavern door, and 
there is more life than usual in the High Street. Women flock 
to the large pump and bear away their full pails with a square 
fender of lath, like a falconer's cage; the long bearded and ragged 
water-carrier is a local curio, and the one carriage sometimes 
passes. Young ladies, escorted as in France by the lonne, 
troop by to shop or to pay visits ; and now and then an 
" Amazone," very unlike her Dahoman sister, ambles by on her 
little "sheltie." 



The proprietor of our club was Hr Jorgensen, a Dane, formerly 
valet to Count Trampe ; he began by hotel-keeping at the Hos- 
pital, but when that failed to keep him he wisely took the pot- 
house which paid well. He was an independent landlord, dis- 
daining to tout for new comers, and not even advertising himself 
by means of a sign-board : in fact, he cared for nothing as long 
as he could tap a barrel of beer per diem. At the end of the 
season he sold the house and goodwill for $12,000 to Mr Askam, 
a Yorkshireman, and returned to his native country a " warm 

You dine at Hr Jorgensen's cafd heuglant for the very moderate 
sum of one rixdollar per diem, including even coffee and petit 


verre, but not including the " cheap Gladstone " which would be 
distasteful to the Oinomathic Society of Edinburgh. The hour 
is three p.m. ; you fight for five with the good-tempered mistress 
and often you lose the battle. Appetite is never wanting near 
the North Pole, and Eeykjavik is a thirstier place, the result of 
evaporation, than even the banks of Brazilian Sao Francisco. 
High spirits, fine air, and free ozone — if such a thing there be — 
are proof against the excessive greasiness of Icelandic cookery 
where, however, it must be owned that melted butter now takes 
the place of tallow. The people have learned the use of salt, 
which formerly they ignored like the Guanchinets (Guanches) of 
Tenerife, not to say islanders generally : it is hard to see the 
hygienic value of the condiment amongst eaters of fish and meat, 


however necessary it may be to a vegetarian race like Brahmans 
and Banyans. Icelanders still prefer spices : the nutmeg, clove, 
and cinnamon which are mixed, in place of pepper, with sorrel 
or scurvy-grass {Bumex acetosa) ; and the sugar which is added, 
even to cabbage, gain for the cook anything but our blessings. 
Eice pudding with a sauce of currant jelly and water by way 
of molasses or the Syrian " dibs " (grape-syrup), often after the 
fashion of Dotheboys' Hall, precedes soup, and the latter is not 
rarely milk-soup, or Sod Suppe, the sweet broth of Norway, 
a slab compound of sago, dry cherries, raisins or plums, coloured 
with the juice of the imported Tyttebaer, Vaccinium myrtillus 
and vitis-idcea ; the Blaber of the Faeroes and our own bilberry 
or blaeberry, red whortleberry or cowberry. 

The salmon is excellent, firmer, finer, curdier, and leaner than 
with us ; unfortunately it is cut up into slices. We make ample 
acquaintance with Australian and other preserved meats, and as 
might be expected, we find baking in lieu of roasting which 
seems now almost confined to England — the rationale of the 
regretable change is that it saves fuel. The cheese is certainly 
not from Cheese-shire ; it is about as good as bad Gruyere : there 
is a dark sweet stuff called Mysust (mysa, whey, and ostr, "yeast" 
cheese), made of pressed curds, which the traveller will certainly 
not prefer to the Gammell ost, the " old " or common cheese of 

There is a tolerable beer misnamed Baiersk (Baerisch), and 
imported from the Continent — I do not know where Metcalfe 
learned that barley brew is made at Reykjavik. The Schoppe costs 
threepence, whereas the Eodvin, or Vin-de-pays, much like vine- 
gar, and by courtesy called claret, fetches five marks or nearly a 
rixdoUar per bottle. The people avoid the ancestral ale because 
it is supposed to give neuralgia, and prefer "Brazilian wine;" here 
Brennivin, korn-schnapps, or rye brandy which is always drunk 
raw. Enghsh travellers declare that they cannot enjoy it on 
account of the harmless, or rather the beneficial, aniseed with 
which it is flavoured : so Sir Charles Napier, the sailor, ordered 
casks of Syrian Eaki to be started overboard because it must be 
poisonous, as it whitened the water — simply the effect of the 
condiment. The sensible traveller will prefer this unadulterated 


spirit to the vile potato brandy from Canada, coloured with 
burnt sugar and perhaps flavoured with an infinitesimal quan- 
tity of mother-liquor, the impostor which now passes itself off 
to the world as Cognac. 

The tavern and table d'hote have now passed under the rule of 
Jon Zoega, No. 7 High Street, and his pretty wife works hard 
to secure a clean house and good cookery. The stranger on 
landing should at once ask for the " head guide," Geir Zoega, 
who can always find bed and board at his brothers or his sisters. 
Other lodgings are by no means so comfortable, especially those 
fronting the ditch, by courtesy called a canal. 

The day at Eeykjavik is simple. Sleep is sound as appetite 
is hearty, and assimilation of food expeditious. When the 
infantry overhead opens its eyes, you proceed to the " chhoti 
haziri " (little breakfast), and you pass the time in reading and 
writing till the real affair about noon breaks the neck of the 
day's work. A visit or two and a long walk land you at the 
dinner hour — there is no better plan for the student-traveller 
than to make himself thoroughly familiar with a single section 
of the country which he is learning, so that during his field- 
work he may confine himself to the observation of differences. 
After dinner — at five or six p.m. if possible — another and a 
shorter walk, weather permitting, prepares for a few hours' read- 
ing before bed-time. The monotony may be varied by picnics 
and excursions, gun or fishing-rod in hand, more, however, for 
the sake of doing something than in view of sport. Were I a 
Eeykjaviker my rule would be to hybernate, to be " bedded in," 
during the eight months of cold season : 

** Me levant tard, me couchant tot, 
Dormant fort bien ; " 

and to be " potted out " with late spring, so as to pass as 
much as possible of the summer wide-awake and in the open air. 
Yet winter here is the " season," the gay time, when balls last 
from six P.M. to six a.m.; and "society" at the capital apparently 
looks forward to the " disease of the year." 




Sunday, June 9. 
The Iceland Sunday begins at six p.m. on Saturday, and ends at 
following six p.m. ; this precession is the case with the days in 
general; thus Sunday night here is the Saturday night of Europe. 
Apparently Scandinavia is the only part of the Western World 
which preserves a chronometry directly imported from the East. 
We find it everywhere amongst Jews and Moslems ; and 
Genesis (i. 5) tells us that Arab or Gharb (evening) and Bakar 
(morning) formed the first day or period before the sun came 
into being. The old Germans and Gauls computed, we know, 
by nights, and not by days ; and the Teutons probably borrowed 
it from the Celts : it survives amongst ourselves in such terms 
as sennight and fortnight. At Eeykjavik we distinguish the 
" Sabbath " by the amount of flying bunting ; every store has its 
flagstaff, and the merchants as well as the consuls claim a right, 
as in the Brazil and Zanzibar, to sport their colours, which are, 
however, always Danish. The "church-going bell" begins to 
ring, and the doors to open, about 11.15 a.m. : the people much 
prefer the lively measure of their own summons to the monoton- 
ous system of England, whilst the chimes of the Royal Exchange, 
a national disgrace, provoke their contempt. Service does not 
commence till near noon, the usual time in the island where 
many of the congregation have long and rough rides. 

The Domkirkja (cathedral) in the AusturvoUr has often been 
described externally and internally ; the " Napoleon book " and 
others, however, make it all of stone instead of being partly brick. 
The older basaltic building may be seen in Mackenzie, and the 
last additions bear date a.d. 1847. Its outside is shabby as the 



People's Palace at Sydenham; the unclean yellow plaster has 
fallen from the distempered walls, the result of mixing salt sea- 
sand with the mortar; and the same is the case with the College and 
the College Library. "Eispettate la Casa di Dio" should be writ 
large upon every corner of this nondescript. A clerestory, with 
double windows, partly stained, those on the ground floor being 
single ; a low-tiled ridge for the chancel ; a higher pent roof for 
the nave and aisles ; and a tall wooden tower, revetted with 
boiler-plate, compose what the polite call Gothic, the uncivil 
" Bastard Nothing." Utility is consulted by a weather-cock and 
a clock, serviceable to regulate time where no gun, even for 
saluting purposes, must be fired, lest H.H. the eider-duck take 
fright. The front, which is turned west, with a highly orthodox 
regard for orientation, shows the three windows of Eoman 
Catholic architecture; and the Lich-gate,^ never wanting in 


Iceland, is the normal house-hall : it is flanked to the right and 
left by flights of steps leading aloft. And the roof is now water- 


1 The lich-gate proper in the cemetery is, or rather was, called Salu-hli?J, or 
souls' gate. 


The inside is better kept than the outside. The ambulatorium 
and wings are all hard benches, with stiff, straight backs, but 
not divided into pews. The upper galleries along the long walls 
are supported by square and round wooden beams and pillars ; 
the tint is characteristic salmon- colour. Over the entrance is 
the succedaneum for the Narthex-gallery, an organ loft, a cage 
like that used for women in the Melchite churches of Syria. 
On the left side of the nave hangs the board showing the lessons 
of the day ; on the other and outside the chancel is a pulpit, with 
gilt gingerbread work. The holy of holies is very Lutheran, the 
usual blending of Catholicism with Protestantism, which marks 
the first step when consubstantiation took the place of tran- 
substantiation. There is an altar — not a communion table — 
surmounted by a full-length figure of the Saviour, with a sleep- 
ing disciple and a Eoman soldier as usual unusually alarmed ; 
its frame supports a cross, and the tout ensemble is an evident 
derivation from the Iconastasis or Eood-screen. Upon the altar, 
besides an open Bible and a chalice, with pall but without 
bourse, two brass candlesticks of ecclesiastical aspect bear lighted 
tapers, and eight medallions of the popular cherubim adorn the 
boarded wall. The railing is of brass perpendiculars, with 
wooden horizontals, and a cushioned step is knelt upon by com- 
municants receiving the wafer. The gem of the building is the 
font of Bertel (Albert) Thorvaldsen, whose features, figure, and 
character prove him, though not born in Iceland, to have been 
essentially an Icelander.^ The font has been described as a 
" low square obelisk of white marble :" it is the ancient classical 
altar, with basso-relievos on all four sides, subjects of course 

^ According to Professor J. M. Thiele (Copenhagen, 1832), he was descended 
on the spindle side — where, by-the-by, almost any descent can be established — 
from the royal blood of Scandinavia. The family, once settled at 6slandshliS in 
SkagafjorS, sank, and his father Gottskalk emigrated to Copenhagen, where he 
lived by carving figureheads for shipwrights. His mother was a clergyman's 
daughter, and he was born November 19, 1770. Finn Magnusson (Antiquitates 
Americanse) has also drawn up his pedigree. 

His first order from his northern home was, according to Thiele, a font which 
Countess Schimmelmann and her brother Baron Schubarth wished to present to 
the church of Brahe-Trolleberg in "Funen," as we write Fyen. It was adorned 
with four bas-reliefs — the Baptism, the Holy Family, Christ blessing the children, 
and three angels. After being exhibited and admired at Copenhagen, it was sent 
to its destination, and a copy, we are told, was offered by the artist to the deserted 
land of his forefathers, to be placed in Myklahye church. A note informs us that 
this font was bought by a northern merchant, whereupon the artist immedi- 


evangelical; on the top an alto-relievo of symbolical flowers, 
roses, and passiflorse, is cut to support the normal " Dbbefad," or 
baptismal basin. Some have blamed its un-Christian shape, 
without taking notice of its use ; others have reported that the 
inscription has been erased ; unhappily we still read such latin- 
ity as " Terr^ sibi gentilici^ . . . donavit." The sacristy 
contains some handsome priestly robes, especially the velvet 
vestment sent by Pope Julius II. to the last Catholic bishop and 
martyr (?), Jon Arason, in the early sixteenth century, and still 
worn by the chief Protestant dignitary at ordinations. All have 
been carefully described : they reminded me much of the splen- 
did vestments displayed in the Armenian convent at Jerusalem 
during Holy Week, and of the specimens of old embroidery, of 
rich stuffs, rare and interesting, that are worn at certain parts of 
the Protestant service by the officiating clergyman of Transyl- 
vanian Kronstadt. " It is a strange contradiction," says Bonar, 
" to the spirit of Lutheranism ; and the rich, almost royal, robe 
ill accords with the studied plainness of the other parts of the 
dress, in which is not a trace of colour, of flowing lines or 
beauty. But the dissonance to the feelings is greater, for one 
could not but feel it as such, to see the magnificent chasuble 
which the priest had worn at the altar — so highly prized as only 
to be used on the most festive occasions — now employed for 
some everyday purpose unconnected with any holy mystery." 

ately began another in Carrara marble. It is not said whether the third edition 
actually reached Myklabye church or is the one bought by Lord Caledon — evi- 
dently we have found it in the cathedral. 

The "Patriarch of Bas-reliefs," as the Italians entitled him (ob. 1844), has 
been called a "handsome young Dane," when he was peculiarly Icelandic in 
body and mind. It was his misfortune to belong to the day of manufacturing 
sculptors, amongst whom he was the first and no more. But what can the artist 
expect from such inspiration as Jason, Anacreon and Cupid, Mars, Bacchus, 
Apollo, can give ? The Icelander was pure and simple, free from the Gallicisms 
of Canova, an improvement upon Sergell the Swede, but cold, lacking life and 
interest ; in fact, an imitator. I would rather in these days settle as an artist 
amongst the Kru-boys of the west coast of Africa, and attempt negro subjects, 
than copy the classics. 

Richard Cleasby, who, by the by, killed himself with Cures, or rather Kurs, 
had a wide experience of men and manners in Europe, and his criticisms are some- 
times sharp, but he left Thorvaldsen "with the impression of having been in the 
company of a great man." The peculiar Icelandic traits in his character were an 
ultra-Yankee 'cuteness in making a bargain, and a love of money, which led him 
into that ugly business of Madame d'Uhden. Still he amply deserves the statue 
for which the Municipal Council of Copenhagen has voted $6000, in honour of 
the Iceland Millenary. 

352 ULTIMA thule; or, 

Six votive tablets of silver metal hang against the wall, in 
memoriam of departed dignitaries. 

Presently enters the Eector, Hallgrimr Sweinsson, attended 
by Sira Guttormr, a candidate for ordination. He has walked 
to church in black robes, with the broad and stififly-crimped white 
ruff, the Fraise a la Medicis, which is seen from Iceland to Trieste : 
the poorer clergy in the island, as in Norway and Denmark, do 
not use it on account of the expense. His close-cut hair and 
peaked beard give him the aspect of an old family portrait 
dating from the days of the Stuarts. Presently, assisted by a 
bustling clerk in a white surplice, he dons the purple vestment 
with a yellow^ cross down the back — it will be remembered that 
the cope and the vestment were long retained by the Eeformed 
Church in England. Sira^ Hallgrimr thus attired stands up 
and intones with rotund mouth and a good voice somewhat like 
a Kussian papas : he has been seven years in Denmark, yet he 
speaks no French, and very little English. The congregation, 
which is certainly not crowded, first joins in a long, a very long, 
hymn; after this come the prayers of the Lutheran rite; and 
finally, a thirty-minutes sermon for the benefit of the nodders 
and the noddees. The service lasts at least two hours, therefore 
the people rarely sit through it : the men especially disappear 
for a few minutes, and return when they please with a faint aroma 
of tobacco, which no one remarks ; whilst many strangers see it 
through by instalments. The governor, who was visiting, did not 
attend, nor did the bishop, who was unwell. 

The first aspect of the congregation was a novelty, especially 
after reading sentimental descriptions of man, whose " ceil est 
pensif; son attitude nonchalante et sa d-marche engourdie," 
and of woman, whose " traits respirent la douceur et la resigna- 

^ Sira is more commonly, but not so correctly, written Sera, and by foreigners 
Sjera ; and I have heard it pronounced Shera. It is a Romance word, originally 
Senior, hence Seigneur, Signore, Senhor, Senor, Sir, Sir-r (Richardson), Sirrah, and 
"Sir-ree." Icelanders still keep up our fashion of Shakespeare's day, and apply 
it to clerks with the Christian name only, as Sir Hugh. Magister was the uni- 
versity title of the M. A. in our fifteenth century : Dominus (the Dan of Chaucer 
and his contemporaries, and the Don of modern Italian priests) was, and still is, 
the B.A., entered as Sir This or Sir That (the surname) in some of the college 
registers down to the time of Queen Anne, and, I believe, even in our day. 
Hence, possibly, the origin of the French Sir Brown and Sir Jones. 


tion." The latter are naturally far more numerous than the 
former; firstly, the ceremony is in their line, and secondly, they 
preponderate in the population. They mostly affect the left aisle, 
whilst both sexes are mixed in the right. Few of the men sport 
broadcloth and chimney-pot hats ; and these latter, when worn, 
are mostly of the category known as " shocking bad." The usual 
habit is a Wadmal paletot, the creases showing " store-clothes," 
and a billycock or wide-awake; the students carry caps, and 
the general look is that of the Bursch, without his swagger 
and jollity. The distinguishing article is the " Islandsk Skor," 
Iceland shoon, of which I have deposited a specimen at the rooms 
of the Anthropological Institute. It is a square piece of leather 
— sheep, calf, seal, or horse — longer and broader than the foot ; 
the toes and heels are sewn up, the tread is lined with a bit of 
coloured flannel, and the rim is provided with thongs like our 
old sandals. It corresponds with the Irish " brogue," as shown 
in heraldry; the Shetland Kivlin, or Eullian; the Kevlens or 
Eevelins of the Scoto-Scandinavian islands; the Eed Indian 
Mocassin ; the Pyrenean Spartelle ; the Zampette of Sicily ; the 
Eoman Cioccie ; the Opanke of the Slavs ; and the Mizz, which 
Egypt and the nearer East, however, are careful to guard with 
papooshes. It is one of the very worst chaussures known ; it has 
no hold upon snow ; it is at once torn by stone ; being soleless, 
it gives a heavy, lumping, tramping, waddling gait; it readily 
admits water ; and being worn over a number of stockings, it 
makes the feet and ancles look Patagonian, even compared with 
the heavy figure. There are a few specimens of " Lancashire clogs" 
from Denmark and the Faeroes; chumpers or sabots are unknown; 
and the civilised bottine is not wanting. 

The women at first sight appear tall compared with the men, 
but not so notably as in the case of the little Welshman and his 
large wife. They are, as they should be, better looking than 
their mates, whilst the chubby and rosy children are better 
looking than their mothers. The expression of countenance is 
hard and uncompromising. We involuntarily think of " tliose 
chilly women of the north who live only by the head;" and 
they gorgonise us into stony statues. Eegularity of features is 

hardly to be expected so near the Pole. Even amongst the Ger- 
VOL. I. z 



man races we look for complexion and piquancy to take the place 
of that classical beauty which is exceptional beyond the lovely 
Mediterranean shores. The congregation showed many a pretty 
gui, but not a single face that would be remarked farther south. 
The hair is admirable, and requires no chignon — the invention 


which conceals the Englishwoman's chief defect, her capiglia- 
tura. It is either hlond-cendre, dark red, or light chestnut-brown, 
as in older Denmark ; farther south, but not here, brown-black is 
by no means a rarity. Plaited in two large queues, which hang 
down the back at home, it is gathered up when abroad under 



the Hufa or cap. This article is a caricature of the Fez, as the 
Skor are of the Mizz, and it has every defect except that of 
ugliness. The material is elastic black web woven by the 
women. The old style is to wear it large, like the night-cap of 
former days : the juniors prefer a mere apology for head-cover- 


ing, much smaller than the thing now called a hat in England. 
It is provided with a Tuskana, a long tassel of black spun silk 
brought from Copenhagen ; and the latter is ornamented at the 
base by a short cylinder (Holkr) of silver, gilt-silver, or brass 
made in the country. This tassel serves for not a little by-play ; 


usually it depends upon the right or left shoulder indifferently, 
but when bending, for instance, it may be held under the chin 
for coquettish contrast of colours. The whole affair, which costs 
some six rixdollars, is kept in position by hair-pins, and, as it 
gives no protection against cold, it is covered out of doors with 
a shawl, mostly grey, striped white or chocolate ; in fact, women 
rarely leave the house, even in what we consider warm weather, 
without being muffled to the ears; and the men are not less 
effeminate. There is only one specimen of the old Ealldr or 
Skott Falldr (galeated cap), which seems to be growing obsolete ; 
the day is windy, and this curved and 

** High-peaked head-dress of snowy white," 

which corresponds with the " Eoide Cornette " of ancient Hol- 
land, and of which modifications may still be seen in ISTormandy, 
could hardly be worn. I shall reserve a description of the 
crested and helmet-hke affair which strangers compare with a 
flattened cornucopia, with a cap of liberty, or with a dragoon 
casque, ultra Amazonian : here let me merely premise that it is 
a larger edition of the Lapp head-dress ; that, within the memory 
of man, it was worn in the Orkneys ; and that the whole costume 
somewhat resembles that of the Oberland Bernois. The few 
hats and bonnets accompany more modern attire, and even the 
crinoline and the Dolly Varden are not wholly unknown. In 
Iceland dress denotes the station ; in Europe it is only the most 
advanced society that escapes from this outward show. The 
sensible Yankee travels in his " Sunday best," because it pro- 
cures him respect and attention where he is unknown; we 
reverse the rule, and notably so on " the Continent " — which is 
uncivil and breeds incivility. Most of the elderly women are 
in black Wadmal ; the juniors prefer fine, dark bottle-green stuff, 
with plaid or rainbow-coloured aprons. I at once remark the 
absence of the ywrj Trvyoa-roXos, called " bussle- wearer " by our 
grandmothers. Those in the island-costume wear a narrow band of 
gold embroidery round the skirt, which resembles the costume of 
the Slav women about Trieste. The bosom is no longer flattened 
as much as possible — was this the result of a savage decency 


which taught the sex to mask nature ? On the contrary, about 
the middle of the jacket a soupgon of white chemisette is now 
allowed to peep forth. But these coy dames have still to borrow 
a hint from the young Irish person who wore 

** every beauty free 
To sink or swell as heaven pleases. " 

" Sabbath " in the " moral north " passed away as usual. The 
respectables, masculine as well as feminine, sat at the windows 
opposite one another, the former smoking vile Hamburg cigars, 
the latter devoting themselves to the serious and exhaustive 
study of street scenery. The German mirror placed to reflect 
the thoroughfare is still a rarity, and therefore the prospector 
must display herself as chez twics. The commonalty leaned 
against the walls and railings, much like the Irish peasantry of 
the present day, whose poetry, wit, and humour, once so famous, 
appear, like art in Italy, to have been crushed out of life by a 
generation-long course of "patriotism," politics, and polemics. 
There was a little more apparent drunkenness than usual, men 
staggering about, peasants supporting one another, and all jostling 
whatever they met in the streets. This unpleasant process of 
" rubbing up " seems to be here the rule, and we can hardly com- 
plain of it when we remember the lower orders, and not only the 
lower orders, of the Lowland Scotch : as the Yankee is the Eng- 
lishman with the weight taken off him, so here the people, like 
the scenery, are Caledonian intensified. In the evening, thus to 
speak, when the dissolute sun, instead of keeping the regular 
hours of the tropics, does not turn in before eleven p.m., the sexes 
paired, and one gentleman accompanied his " lady " in carpet 
slippers. The day ended without a brawl. On St Monday, how- 
ever, there was a tavern quarrel, when one of the strongest men 
in the town had his face cut open by a stone. We were assured by 
all that such things are very rare. Yet on the following Wednesday 
one of the couthless Calibans from the country, whom tangle-leg 
had made " drunk as an auk," thinking that he was derided by 
a party of Englishmen, slipped up behind one of them and hit 
him a rounder, in popular parlance a "regular slogdolager." 
The Briton, thus unexpectedly assaulted, soon recovered him- 



self, and, though the peasant bundled away, rolling like a bolt- 
ing bear, Mr A succeeded in lodging a couple of sound 

lashes with his horsewhip. A small crowd gathered ; of course 
it took part against the strangers, and a free fight became im- 
minent. This was prevented by the chief constable, whose 
badge is the tallest hat I ever did see, and who commands a 


body of three men, armed with the "Northern Star." When 
appealed to, however, the dignitary distinctly refused to take his 
fellow-countryman into custody ; hence, perhaps, the freedom of 
the jails from jail-birds, a peculiarity strongly insisted upon by 
complimentary writers, and quaintly corresponding with our 
"gratifying diminution of crime." This is not what we read 


about Iceland and the Icelanders. It of course will be said that 
fair time is approaching, and that we are at Eeykjavik, a centre 
of dissipation, where men are eagerly looking forward to the 
arrival of a grind-organ. 

This appears to be the place for inserting a few remarks upon 
the subject of drinking in Iceland compared with that of England 
and Scotland. I had asserted in the Standard that " more cases 
of open, shameless drunkenness may be seen during a day at 
Eeykjavik than during a month in England and Scotland." A 
gentleman interested in the matter writes to me : " According to 
the only official returns of Icelandic statistics (' Skyrslur um 
landshagi (resources of the country) a Islandi, gefnar ut af hinu 
islenska Bokmenntafelagi/ Kaupmannahofn, 8vo), from 1865 to 
1869, the date of the last publication, the consumption of intoxi- 
cating drinks has been steadily decreasing. Thus in — 

1865 the amount of 2 gallons 64 pints were drunk per head. 

1866 „ 2 „ 1 „ 

1867 ,, ^ 1 „ 6 „ 

1868 ,, 1 ,, 4 „ 

1869 „ 1 „ 3 „ 

In 1869 the gross total used in the island was thus one gallon 
and three pints per head. In Scotland the consumption of spirits 
alone for 1870 was a fraction of a gill less than two gallons a 
head (Parliamentary return for 1870 relating to spirits, beer, and 
malt spirits), and in the United Kingdom one gallon a head. I 
have not been able to ascertain the quantity of wines consumed, 
nor the proportion contributed by the secret stills of Scotland and 
Ireland ; but of beer and spirits together, the consumption in the 
United Kingdom was no less than thirty gallons per head per 
annum. You must remember that the Icelanders have no 
spirits equal in strength to whiskies and French brandies. You 
must also remark in connection with the drunkenness observed 
by you at Eeykjavik that you were there during the trading- 
season, when people flock to the capital. They have not tasted, 
perhaps, a drop of intoxicating liquor during nine or ten months, 
and they make up for their sobriety by a fortnight or so of in- 
dulgence. I have known several peasants who bought a keg of 
Danish brandy at the trading-place, and who made free use of it 

360 ULTIMA THULE; or, 

during their homeward journey, and as long after as the supply 
lasted. Then they did not taste a drop till the next season, for 
the very good reason that they could not get it. It would there- 
fore not be quite fair to state, as a general condition of the Ice- 
landers, what might be observed at Eeykjavik during the fair, 
from about the middle of June to the end of July. It would be 
equally unjust to show up the condition of Londoners on Box- 
ing Night, or of the Scotch on New Year's Day, not to speak of 
every Saturday night." 

To this I reply. In 1834 the consumption was only 2 bottles 
of spirits per head ; on the whole, therefore, there is an increase. 
Between 1849-62 (Paijkull^) the imports had increased 79 per 
cent., and in the latter year the consumption per head was of 6*7 
Danish pots or quarts, when Scotland uses 1^ gallons per head. 
Mr Consul Crowe (1870-71, p. 648) shows that the consumption is 
" about 24 quarts annually for every adult male, without count- 
ing ale, wine, rum, punch extract, and other spirituous drinks 
imported." My stay in Iceland lasted not till the end of July, 
but till September the first. I found drunkenness prevail not 
only in the capital, but in the farm-houses ; and, as the trading 
stations and market-ships are now scattered all round the coast, 
there is no difficulty in obtaining spirits throughout the year. 
Since 1869, the practice has apparently increased with the 
growth of commerce. As regards the figures, they are like facts 
perfectly capable of misleading as well as leading. The statistics 
of a sparse and scattered population can hardly be expected to be 
correct ; for instance, the fleet of French fishing vessels smuggles 
a quantity of cognac which does not appear in the returns. 
The Consular Eeport (1870-71, p. 650) adds, "The consump- 
tion of ardent spirits in the island is very great, being as 490,000 
imperial quarts annually (or 490,000 : 70,000), and of this large 
quantities are landed by the foreign fishermen, who barter it 
with the natives for their fish and other raw produce." We all 
issued from the " Queen " with more or less whisky, about 
which nothing was asked or said ; and this may counter-balance 

^ This author also tells us that Sweden annually produces 38,000,000 of pots 
of Korn-schnapps, of which 6,000,000 are used for technological purposes. 


even the large produce of the " secret stills " existing in Ireland,^ 
but rare in England, Wales, and Scotland. Also what is con- 
sumed in Iceland is almost entirely drunk by the men — I never 
saw that disgTace of our great cities, a drunken woman. 

The actual state of things is not what is shown by the figures. 
An eminent Icelander openly asserted that he had dived into 
the gin-palaces of London and Edinburgh, yet that he had seen 
more drunkenness in a day at Eeykjavik than during his whole 
visit to Great Britain. This comparison with a nation which 
derives £13,000,000 of revenue from spirits alone, and which 
has "drunk itself out of the Alabama difficulty," is telling. 
There have been repeated attempts to establish teetotalism, 
but none have succeeded — perhaps a whisky war might lead to 
victory. And here hard drinking is apparently a little repro- 
bated practice. A party of English travellers lodged at the 
house of an educated man, who, fresh from a visit to Denmark, 
expressed the didce domum and domesticity sentiment by loud 
and late striving in strong liquors. The same tourists engaged 
a guide, who kept himseK sober during the march, but after- 
wards broke out in a way which prevented his re-engagement, 
sleeping unter freien himmel, and so forth. 

That our vices like our virtues are regulated by our " media," 
no traveller can doubt. Thus in England, out of an annual 
total of 150,000 souls " drunk and disorderly," ^ the number 
proceeded against in the south (not including London) was 
3-2 : 1000 ; in the Midland district, 4-0 : 1000 ; whilst in the 
north it rose to the extreme ratio of 10*8 : 1000. These figures 
show, if evidence be wanted, that " as we go north drunkenness 
increases." The classical Scandinavian and the Northmen 
generally were deep topers, quarrelsome withal; their wives 
always removed their weapons when they sat down to drink ; 
and they looked forward to a Houri-lacking and jpro tempore 
paradise, where the dead rode forth daily to cut one another to 

1 In 1872 no less than 1100 cases of illicit distillation were detected in Ireland, 
against 21 in England, and 8 in Scotland. 

2 The irrepressible statistician of the Figaro assigns annually to England 50,000 
deaths by drunkenness, of which 12,000 are women; 40,000 to Germany; 38,000 
to the United States ; 10,000 to Russia (? ?) ; 4000 to Belgium ; and 1500 to vir- 
tuous France. 

362 ULTIMA thule; or, 

pieces, and rode back to gorge nasty boiled pork and swill vasty 
draughts of bilious mead. In the south, take Europe for 
instance, men hold wine to be the larpdov i^vxys, and prefer 
to over-nourishment gambling, or what we call immorality, in 
the confined sense of the word. Eace, again, heredity and atav- 
ism, or the habits bequeathed by forefathers, modify climate: 
the Slav, for example, who occupies the same latitudes as the 
abstemious Turk and Italian, is a hard eater and wine-bibber. 
And I have a conviction that spirit-drinking is becoming common 
in countries where it was formerly almost unknown. During 
a late ride to Eonda in Spain, two drunken men were seen in 
one day, and three appeared at an Italian country-fair — these 
are instances out of many which might be quoted. 

In England, on the other hand, drinking in society has been 
modified not solely, as we flatter ourselves, by better taste or by 
a " higher tone," but also by the increased use of nicotine — an 
axiom which will be grateful to the readers of C^o^e's Tobacco 
Plant, and unpleasant to gentlemen of the happily defunct 
Palmerstonian school. In the age of Queen Anne apparently 
all Englishmen smoked. The Continental war made the prac- 
tice " un-English," and an increase of snuff was the result. At 
Oxford, shortly before I matriculated, some youth of heroic 
mould, who deserves a statue if any one does, lit a cigar almost 
immediately after the hall-dinner. He was called hard names, 
but he persevered, and he found imitators : the consequence was 
a notable curtailing of the " wines " which used to last from 
seven to eleven p.m. In 1852 I was objurgated, and not un- 
frequently cut, for smoking a manilla in the streets of London. 
Very shortly afterwards a ducal reformer spread his plaid under 
a tree in Hyde Park, produced a briar-root, and expected his 
friends to do likewise. I need hardly say that they did. 

After this little experience of life, man will be careful how far 
he allows local custom to modify his comfort and his convenience. 




The Eeykjavikers may be distributed into four classes: the 
official, ecclesiastic, and civil ; the merchants ; the fishing-class ; 
and the paupers. The visiting hour begins with noon. You 
open the outer door of the diminutive hall and rap at either side- 
entrance : but generally the left, otherwise the gynseceum may 
be sorely disturbed. The rapping possibly lasts for five minutes ; 
the servant hears you or not, and if she condescends to open she 
usually stares, backs, and leaves you on the threshold. This 
class in Iceland appears to me the worst in the world — practical 
communists with the rude equality of the negro, worse even than 
the Irish help in the United States, or the servitor at Trieste, 
where the men are either louts or rogues, and the women are 
cheats, bacchanalians, or something worse. The domestic agrees 
to live with his employer for a certain sum, finds little to do, 
will do nothing but drink and be dissolute, refers frequently to 
the contract, tells the master, with true northern candour, to 
serve himself, and finally retires to the house of his brother's 
wife's third cousin. So the Greenlander gives warning by " Kasu- 
onga " (I am tired of you). Throughout the country it appears 
a dishonour to do household work. Most of the farms, even 
when in debt, have some article of the kind, but generally it is 
an aged and feminine body, perhaps connected with the family 
and liable to starve when turned off. 

On the other hand, if after knocking you enter, there is pro- 
bably a startled rise and rustle of petticoats, like a flushed covey 
of partridges, the home-toilette, as in the nearer " East," being 
the one all-sufficient cause. At this season well-to-do Eeyk- 


javikers rise at eight a.m. ; breakfast substantially at nine or 
ten, and sally forth after noon to walk, ride, or call upon friends. 
The islanders dine at two p.m. ; the Danes at four, and some- 
times, when parties are given, at five — already an approach to 
civilised hours. A supper, mostly cold like the breakfast, is 
taken at eight p.m. ; and thus, as in the homely parts of Austria 
and Italy, the evening visit is impossible. There is no better- 
contrivance for cutting up society. 

As on the Continent of Europe, the stranger makes the first 
call, and of course he begins with the governor. H. E. Hilmar 
Finsen, despite his Danised name, Finsen for Finnsson, is an Ice- 
lander of old and well-known stock, and he worthily keeps up 
the hospitalities of the late Count Trampe, whom so many 
English travellers have cause to remember with the hveliest 
gratitude. The family is a little hurt by the Napoleon book, 
which gives (p. 160) the genealogy of Vilhjalmr Finsen, in 1857 
" magistratus " (mayor) " Eeykjavicse," through Adam, Noah, 
Saturn, Jupiter, Priam, and " Odinn, rex Asarum." The table 
was sent to the prince as a specimen of an Icelandic tree, and 
French sense of humour could not let pass the opportunity of 
taking it au s4rieux and printing it in extenso. After all there 
is a fine Old World flavour in it : so a Greek eupatrid found in 
his genealogy, either paternal or maternal, all his country's gods 
both of Olympus and of the other place. Governor Finsen's 
great-great-grandfather was the celebrated Bishop of Skalholt 
(1754) and editor of the Landnamabok, Finn Jonsson, who loved 
to latinise himself into Finnus Johannseus ; his " Historia Eccle- 
siastica Islandise," though much decried by Catholics, continues 
to be a standard work. The portrait of this worthy, in ruff and 
gown, is found everywhere ; and the fine oval face, straight fea- 
tures, and serene blue eyes have not left the family.^ His son 
Hannes Finsson was the last Bishop of Skalholt, when shortly 
before 1800, Danes, for motives of economy, fused together the 
two sees, in the person of Geir Yidalin, first primate of Iceland. 
About this time the patronymic began to be exchanged for the 

1 Bishop Petursson has a section (No. 3, p. 448, et seq.), '* De regiis Islandise 
Satrapis," amongst whom was a Count Ehrenreich C. L. Moltke. Chap. II. (p. 474) 
treats *' de Fimio Johannseo ;" and Chap. III. (p. 479) "de Johanne Finnaeo." 


family name ; the son of Bishop Finsson was called Olafr (Olave) 
Finsson, and, he being a Danish official, a judge in Jutland who 
never saw Iceland, Finsson became Finsen. 

The present governor's title, Stiftamtmand (Icel. StiptamtmaSr), 
has been lately changed to LandshofSingsi (Danish), a higher 
grade without extra rank or salary ; and the mayor (Bsearfogeti) 
has similarly been advanced to Landsskrifari, or official secretary. 
Hr Finsen is a civilian — admirals and naval officers are no longer 
the privileged ruling caste, and Iceland has gained by the loss. He 
speaks French, but prefers Danish ; whilst his very young look- 
ing wife, whose six stalwart boys and girls suggest brothers 
and sisters, knows only her native tongue. We talked of the 
mysterious volcano in the depths of the Vatnajokull, whose 
flames were first seen about the end of August 1867 : he ad- 
vised me strongly to attempt the south-eastern corner of the 
island via BerufjorS ; Professor Gunnlaugsson did the same, and 
the only dissentient voice was Hr Procurator Jon GuSmundsson. 
The governor was, I shall show, right. 

The second call should be paid to Bishop Peter Petursson, 
who is also agent for the Bible Society.^ This dignitary was 
most obliging in giving me information, and he presented me 
with a copy of his work, alluded to in the Introduction, He 
was then (1841) licentiate of theology, " toparchise Snsefellensis 
et Hnappadalensis Prsepositus " and " Pastor Stadastadensis." I 
asked him why he did not bring it up to the present day, and he 
replied, with excellent sense, that to write contemporary annals 
is a hard task ; and that De vivis nil nisi honum, though a fine 
Christian precept, is a prescription for composing history of very 
dubious value. 

The approaching departure of "" Le Cher," and the presence of 
a Danish cruiser, and the mail-steamer, officered by the Eoyal 
Navy, caused an unusual outburst of hospitality. The first 
dinner where I " met the surly Dane," and found him an uncom- 
monly good fellow, was at the house of the good M. Eandrtip, 

^ I made the mistake before leaving England of buying the Biblia published 
in the German character at Copenhagen in 1747, and found the language old- 
fashioned. The Oxford edition of the Bible Society, which sells for four marks, is 
certainly an improvement. 

366 ULTIMA thule; or, 

Consul de France, a Continental, wliose devotion to the interests 
of his native country has considerably " exercised " the political 
section of the islandry. I cannot refrain from expressing my 
gratitude to this gentleman and his family ; he was ever ready 
to assist me and, indeed, all travellers ; whilst madame and 
mademoiselle made visits peculiarly pleasant. A Danish house 
is always known by pictures and engravings of Copenhagen and 
other home scenes, in addition to family photos and loyal por- 
traits of King Christian IX. and his queen ; of King Frederick 
VII., who travelled in Iceland and left there the best of names ; 
of the Prince of Wales and the Princess Alexandra, who has 
warmed every heart ; and, perhaps, of the battle of " Schleswig- 
Holstein meer-umschlungen." One enjoys even the artificial 
presence of trees, which look like the portentous growths of the 
Brazil or Central Africa, after the stunted vegetation in and 
around Eeykjavil^. The Icelanders sing or are supposed to sing : 

" From the midst of Copenliagen's smoke, 
We all yearn for home ; 
Long, dearest, again to behold thee. 
The noisy din irks us ; 
Revelry tempts us in vain ; 
And the fool grins contemptuously at us 
In the streets of Copenhagen." 

The Danes slily remark that a good appointment and the easy 
temptation of rixdollars greatly modify all this athumia and 
nostalgia; and there is much truth in what the Napoleon 
book says, " Chose ^tonnante ! il n'y a pas de patriote islandais, 
lorsqu'il est de retour dans son pays, ne caresse I'id^e de s'en aller 
vivre dans un pays a vegetation serieuse" (p. 157). In a certain 
stage of civilisation, there is no place like home ; about the end 
of the last century we find Ireland, that " mild and sedimentary 
Iceland," styled the "kingdom of the zephyrs," and grandilo- 
quently described as a " country particularly dignified by the 
magnificent hand of I^ature, whose liberality has denied it 
notliing that is necessary to constitute a great and happy 
nation." A fallacy lurks in the well-worn quotation : 

* ' So the wild torrent and the whirlwind's roar 
But bind him to his native mountains more." 


The Switzer readily leaves his mire patrie, but ever cherishes 
the hope of returning, a wealthy man, to lay his bones in the 
place which gave him birth. The Englishman, whose native 
mountains are mole -hills and whose wild torrents are mere 
" cricks," does exactly the same. The Frenchman, also an 
inhabitant of the plains, tears out his heartstrings whilst bid- 
ding adieu to " beautiful France," but when comfortably settled 
abroad seems to care Kttle for seeing her charms again. Perhaps 
I should speak in the past tense, for railways and steamers are 
levelling these differences. 

All the guests spoke English and French, and all were very 
charming. They were curious concerning Blaland, the country 
of the blacks ; and they asked about Dr Livingstone, whose 
name is known in every farm-house which owns a few books. 
They inquired if I belonged to the " JokuU Klubb " (Alpine 
Club) : apparently in a mountainous country an Englishman 
must study mountains not mountaineers. The table is always 
d la Eusse; flowers and fruits have been to our "groaning 
boards " what the cigar and the pipe were to the dessert and 
" wine ; " only those who remember the last generation can 
appreciate this relief from endless side dishes and the barbarous 
liospitality which prided itself upon pressing an indigestion 
upon the conviva satur. The flowers are mostly artificial — 
I wonder why the tender and beautiful island heaths are not 
more generally used. The salmon from the Laxa and the sea- 
trout are undeniably better than ours. The venerable custom 
of drinking healths is still preserved : it descends directly 
from the " full," or tumbler, quaffed in honour of Odin and Njord, 
Frey and Braga. Christianity converted these toasts to the 
Father, the Son (Kristsminni), the Angels, especially Michael, and 
the Saints ; and modern conviviality has devoted them to present 
and absent friends. The habit is to " cap out " after bowing, 
and then to tilt the wine-glass slightly toward the compotator, 
with a second bow. When you help your neighbour from 
a fresh bottle, you first pour, as in the Brazil, a few drops into 
your own glass ; and at a certain stage of the proceedings you do 
not administer a bumper. The sole toast was to JustisraS Bojesen, 
the governor's venerable father-in-law, who was on a visit to the 


island. After a dessert of the studentenf utter, cold pudding, 
dates, prunes, and olives, all rise and, whether introduced or not, 
bow or shake hands, especially with the host and hostess, say- 
ing " Velkomme," not " welcome " but " prosit," a hearty old 
Danish, or rather German, practice, not indigenous to this part 
of Scandinavia. There is no sitting when the smallcoats leave 
the table ; and probably from the scantiness of accommodation 
only men dine out. 

The next banquet, being at the governor's, was more official, only 
four black coats appeared, and even the mayor was dressed in uni- 
form, gold-embroidered cuffs and collar of green velvet. Toasts 
were numerous, beginning with the French and Danish nations, 
which were duly acknowledged : and the two strangers, a young 
Englishman and myself, replied in French — not in Latin. After 
dinner we smoked and drank coffee, whilst the juniors, despising 
the damp cold, repaired for croquet to the " lawn." At the 
bishop's there was a strong muster of the clergy from the out- 
stations, in honour of the Eev. Guttormr Vigfusson, who had 
that day been ordained. Here, and here only, we saw snuff taken 
at table, and a use of the knife in the matter of peas and gravy, 
which still lingers amongst the best society in parts of Europe 
— it would be insidious to specify — but which Beau Brummel 
and his cloth have completely banished from England. It is 
only in the " Eegimen Mensse honorabile," that we still read : 

*' Sal cultello capia- \ 

Modicum sed crebro biba- ) 

The bishop's wife dined with us, and went through the laborious 
process of dispensing soup and meat to some two dozen guests ; 
there was no room for the two pleasing daughters, nor for the 
adopted child — certainly the best looking of maidens at Eeykja- 
vik. We separated early, and after the Homeric proportions of 
the banquet a long walk was judged advisable. 

The evening's conversation taught me how thin-skinned are 
Icelanders upon all subjects connected with their country and 
themselves. I could not but think of a canny people farther 
south, who hold praise to be an impertinence, whilst dispraise, if 


it were not so truly contemptible, would be the one offence never 
to be condoned. Madame Ida Pfeiffer's angry book was duly sat 
upon, all declared that she has misconstrued almost everything 
she observed. The fact is, that the poor authoress, when flitting 
through the country on her " weird visit," was utterly misunder- 
stood by the people, and showed her resentment by the use of 
her especial weapon. Even the genial and amiable owner of the 
yacht " Foam," who, so far from wishing to hurt the feelings of 
any reader, has passed over in silence many things which ought 
to have been told, is not forgiven for the Latin speech beginning 
with " Pergratum est" — "chaff" is unknown in Iceland, and 
gives terrible offence to this painfully sensitive race. Cham- 
bers is a farceur ; Prince Napoleon is harsh-judged for writing 
anything that might not please Icelandic readers ; Forbes never 
rounded SnsefeU; the late Professor Paijkull is a prejudiced 
foreigner, whose views about the sheep disease are simply ridicul- 
ous; and even Baring-Gould is incorrect in his details. For 
science, we are referred to Sir George Mackenzie ; and for geo- 
graphy, manners, and customs, to Dr Henderson. It is only fair, 
however, to state that sensible Icelanders, who have lived out of 
this " living and antiquarian museum, recalling, as far as material 
and practical progress is concerned, the Europe of a century ago," 
agree that Henderson praises them beyond all measure, and 
recommend to all Englishmen Professor Paijkull, as the fairest 
and the least exaggerated in general statements. 

I already felt the growling and the bursting of the storm upon 
my devoted head. But the traveller who would do his duty to 
the Public must think as little as possible of blame and praise. 
The reader, and also the critic, enjoy high spirits, persistent opti- 
mism, and especially the " burying of all animosities, and condon- 
ing of all offences " — in fact, every tale of travel must be a Chinese 
picture, all lights and no shades. The end of a journey, like the 
resignation of a ministry, should cause a general whitewashing. 
If we tell the truth, we are sure to be assured that our pictures 
are forbidding or " bilious in tone." My only reply is, that 
under certain circumstances they can be nothing else, if, indeed, 
they are to be portraits, and not fancy sketches for a Book of 

Beauty. I own to feeling a personal grievance against a writer 
VOL. L 2 a 

370 ULTIMA thule; oe, 

who spreads before me all tlie sweets, and who hides under the 
table all the sours and bitters of his experience. 

The next invitation was from Capitaine Alfred Le Timbre, of 
Saint-Malo, a pleasant, gentlemanly man, who spends his summer 
in looking forward to September, when the "Cher's" head will turn 
south. To an Englishman the most companionable of French- 
men is generally a sailor, and a Breton is all but a compatriot. 
Capitaine Le Timbre and his consul have no slight task in con- 
trolling some 3000 French fishermen, distributed amongst 250 
vessels : the foreigners are bound not to land, and, indeed, not to 
approach the shore within the normal score of miles. This law is 
much broken ; the men are often obliged to be invalided, and are 
sometimes wrecked with considerable loss of life : the under- 
writers after August add 1 per cent., and 0*50 per cent, for every 
subsequent fortnight. I afterwards travelled with nineteen of 
them on board the " Diana," and found them by no means a 
" rough lot." The people buy smuggled goods low, and sell pro- 
visions uncommonly high, and the results are frequent free fights 
between the strangers and the islandry. The former complain 
that they are always wrong in the eye of the law, and that their 
own authorities are ever the most severe in the matter of fines 
and imprisonment. As has been said, the Eeformation made 
salt cod more valuable to Catholic lands; still sundry of our 
fishermen, when they fail at the Faeroes, where the fish is better 
and more easily carried home alive, try Iceland : the Grimsby 
men are said to be the worst, the Hull men the best. An 
occasional cruiser is much wanted to keep the ruf&ans in 
order : Forbes recommended the measure years before H.M.S. 
"Valorous," Captain Thrupp, appeared in August 1872. No 
English man-of-war deigned to grace the millenary festival of 
1874 — the successful effacement of Great Britain should be a 
matter of heartfelt congratulation to us; but gare the recoil 
of the spring. The evening was pleasant, as usual on board a 
ship of war, and the belongings wore a home look, a civilised 
aspect, which made it more than normally agreeable — I felt again 
at home. The traveller cannot help remarking one effect of rail- 
roads and steamers upon European society: in dress and manners 
we all seem to be forming one great nation. One of the guests 


was a Hr Grimr Thomsen, who is favourably mentioned by Messrs 
Dasent and Newton : after being employed in sundry consulates, 
this gentleman of " grim cognomen " ^ has taken a pension, and 
settled at the old college of BessastaSr, where he attends to agri- 
culture, and looks after the fishing. From him I heard how far 
superior to Arab blood are Iceland ponies, and a curious local 
grievance — it must serve for a better — namely, that strangers 
come to the island under the impression that they cannot break 
their necks in it. He first showed me the popular habit of 
making unpleasant and antipathetic, if not rude, remarks : this 
mordant tone is still a mania in Iceland; it descends from 
the days of the defamatory songs, which spared neither 
gods nor men. And now, having dined out, we will turn 

The Klafter (chat) Klubb is an institution even more primitive 
than that of Madeira, which, greatly to feminine and connubial 
satisfaction, used to close at six p.m. The many-windowed 
wooden building in Hafnarstrseti is the store kept by Hr MoUer, 
who manages the club, and allows it three small rooms somewhat 
higher in the ceiKng than usual. It opens only on Wednesday 
evenings, when the principal merchants congregate to drink 
" toddy." The yearly subscription is $12 ; and strangers, after 
being presented, may visit it three times gratis — unless the 
usual sharp practice rule otherwise. In such matters there 
is a conventional honesty ; even in London the secretary will 
sometimes do for the institution what he would not think of 
doing for himself. 

At the first opportunity I called upon M. I'Abbe Baudouin, 
now the only Catholic missionary in the island, which formerly 
had two. The road leads past the Hospital, and we can inspect 
the tarn whose southern bank is the Paseo for "beauty and fashion" 
— I rarely met any there but English. The little piece of water 
in former days was covered with wild fowl ; now it supports 
nothing but yellow-green weed, especially when it shrinks in 
July and August. It drains large peat bogs at the southern or 

^ Grimr and Grimnir are names of Odin, from his travelling in disguise : grlmu- 
raaSr is a cowled man, ** Mutalassam," or " face-veiled," as the Bedawin say. 


inland end, and when swollen it passes to the sea by the foul 
ditch before mentioned, fit only for sticlde-backs. In winter it 
serves for skating, but it is not always frozen over, another 
proof of unexpectedly mild climate despite high latitudes. Of 
course it is very variable under the influence of the volcano and 
the iceberg : in 1845, the last eruption of Hekla covered the 
adjacent valleys with abundant vegetation; in 1869 and 1873, 
the greater part of the island was ice-bound for months. 

On the western bank of the tarn are two targets for rifle 
practice, one at 95, the other at 112 paces. I never saw shoot- 
ing there; in fact the only soldiering known to Eeykjavik 
is when the Danish " Fylla" disembarks her short, stout, dapper, 
little crew, averaging twenty-two years of age, for drill under 
a tall quartermaster. On the other side of the road is the 
cemetery, guarded by posts and rails ; the mortuary chapel, 
with its dwarf steeple, all wood, and lighter than those of the 
Sienna country, faces east. Crosses are everywhere, from the 
deadhouse to the parva domus : some of the tombs are not to be 
despised, and the epitaphs beginning with "Hver Hvilir" (here 
lies) are not the comedies of our country churchyards. It is a 
peculiar custom to keep the dead unburied sometimes for three 
to six weeks ; and the measure can hardly be precautionary, as 
the bodies are screwed down in the coffins, and stored at the 
solitary cemetery. A resident foreigner lately exposed himself 
to prosecution because he interred his servant only six days after 

Turning rightwards we pass a windmill to the south-west of 
the town. On its eminence the people assembled in May 1860 
to see the flames and fla-shes proceeding from the " aqua-igneous " 
fissure of Kotlu-gja, which, distant some eighty miles, shot up, 
they say, a pillar of smoke, steam, and scoriae some 24,000 feet 
high (?). From this point also, we are assured, the gleam of the 
VatnajokuU volcano could be detected in 1867. The country 
beyond the mill is a barren stretch of stone, where dodgy plovers 
lay their eggs, and where swarms of gnats put the promenader 
to flight. A few steps lead us to the house of M. Baudouin, which 
is the best in the island ; it was built by Bishop Helgi Thordurs- 
son, predecessor of the present dignitary, and tlie use to which it 


was converted gave some scandal. The Abbe fenced himself in 
with a railing and turnstile, levelled the warts, and manured 
the ground — the shells and the sea- wrack offer excellent compost, 
but they are never used. This was done seven years ago, yet 
double crops are still produced : the inordinate price of labour, 
$2 a day being the wage of a field hand, prevented further 
operations. Truly a few Trappist establishments scattered over 
the island would do an immensity of good. 

M. Baudouin then built to the west of his dwelling-place a 
cross-crowned chapel, and preached to full congregations, who 
attended regularly — I should mention that he is an excellent 
Icelandic scholar. This proceeding aroused the wrath of the 
Eeformed. Strange to say, in this section of the nineteenth 
century, a country which boasts of "liberal institutions" will 
not permit -version; and, although the Althing has been 
strongly in favour of extending everywhere freedom of faith, 
propagandism is allowed only to commercial settlements. The 
house being out of town. Monsieur I'Abbe was warned that he 
was not en regie : the code of Denmark authorises a " subven- 
tion " to those who build places of worship, but " subvention " 
was altered by Icelandic interpretation to "permission," and 
thus the good missionary was assured that he required permis- 
sion to do what the law permitted — which is absurd. His 
opponents then tried to revive against him the obsolete tyran- 
nical ordinances of the old Protestant world : he is an outlaw, 
he may be flogged, and even killed with impunity, whilst har- 
bouring a Papist is punishable by a heavy fine — six ounces of 
silver doubled every day. 

The Abbe wanted nothing better than to be a martyr, but of 
course he wanted in vain. Laws in Iceland are somewhat 
flexible things, exceptionally applied at times, and liable to be 
broken with impunity : so in England " law " contrasts pleas- 
antly with the rigidity of " la loi " of France. In this island, 
where people cannot afford paupers, families are dispersed even 
more cruelly than in our inhuman workhouse system, and each 
member is transferred to his or her Sysla (county) : the country, 
however, can plead necessity for these severe conditions. M. 
Baudouin chose to lodge and board an unhappy household subject 



to forcible separation. Thereupon the mayor imposed upon 
the paupers a fine, which they refused to pay, and lastly, 
he ordered their protector to expel them. The Abb^ stoutly 
refused, and asked what would result if the affair came 
before Chief Justice ThorSur Jonassen ? The reply was, " It will 
be as he sees it." Presently, the authorities perhaps remem- 
bered that when something of the same kind happened in the 
north, the case was quashed by the Court of Cassation in Den- 
mark — nothing more was said. As Eome proposes to establish 
a Vicar Apostolic for Scandinavia,^ M. Baudouin bides his time. 
For two years he has been in bad health, and wears a frost>- 
bitten look ; he now proposes to sun himself for a time in France, 
and after his return, to preach in Icelandic when he pleases and 
where he pleases. The Protestant party boldly hopes never to 
see him again. 

I was pleased to hear from the Abb^ a Catholic version of the 
Eeformed movement which followed the proclamation of Chris- 
tian III. in 1540, and more especially of the murder or just 
execution of that " illiterate and turbulent prelate " who ended 
the " dismal ages of papal darkness," Jon Arason (Are's son), 
whom foreigners call Arseson and Areseni, the last occupant of 
the northern see, Holar.^ His enemies declare that at eighty 
he had a concubine ; that he unmercifully seized and otherwise 
persecuted, his opponents ; that he never went south without an 
armed retinue of two hundred bravos ; that he refused to go to 
Copenhagen, and that he was a rebel against the Crown. His 
friends refute the charges preferred against him ; deny the holm- 
ganga or duel which he is fabled to have fought with Bishop 
Ogmund ; assert that the " Historia Ecclesiastica" contains no less 
than three contradictions, and persistently declare that J. A. was 
simply a martyr to Catholicism. The Eeformers, acting under 
the Danish Government, were headed by Oddur Gottswalksson 
and Gizurr Einarson. The former, a son of the Bishop of Holar, 

^ I see by the papers that Father Stub, the Barnabite, on his return to Berghen 
in Norway, opened a Catholic church, to the great satisfaction of the people. 

^ This common name of places in Iceland means Holts, hills ; it is the plural 
of H611, but most writers put it in the dative plural, Holum, as it would stand in 
composition **I Holum " at Holar. Possibly the intention is, despite grammar, 
to apply Holum to the bishopric and Holar to the other sites. 



when studying at Wittenberg, had been strongly imbued by 
Luther and Melancthon with the spirit of the new faith; 
he afterwards became the first translator of the Bible, 
and lawyer for the northern division of the island till he 
was drowned in 1556. The latter was in turn secretary to 
Ogmund, Catholic Bishop of Skalholt, Lutheran priest, and, 
finally, first Lutheran bishop of the southern see. They sub- 
orned against J. A. one DaSi, a peasant of Myra Sysla, in the 
BorgarfjorS; and Judas, as usual, pretending to be his friend, 
betrayed him to his foes. The house in which he was arrested 
is still shown a little south of the Kvennabrekka chapel : he 
was carried to Skalholt, the southern see, already Lutheran, and 
was incontinently beheaded. 

Followed the usual scenes of persecution and destruction : we 
might be reading a History of England. The Eeformers became 
deformers. Cruel laws were passed against the priests; the 
churches were plundered of their wealth ; the various religious 
houses, — four monasteries, two priories, and two nunneries, — 
each of which, after the excellent fashion of El Islam and its 
mosques, had a school attached, were suppressed, whilst the 
lands were either sold, vested in the Crown, or made over to 
Lutheranism. It was a case of "non licet esse vos," and the 
proceeding was exactly that of our Act of 1537. 

Let me briefly remark that in treating of matters which hap- 
pened three centuries ago, both Catholic and Protestant writers 
are too apt to look upon them from the stand-point of the pre- 
sent. Catholics see only the use of their establishments ; they 
will not accept the consequences of defeat, and yet they know 
that by the rule " Vse victis " they would have dealt, had they 
been conquerors, the same measure which was dealt to them. 
Protestants note only the abuses which marked the age ; they 
look upon the old system with a jaundiced eye, and they mis- 
represent, undoubtedly, often without knowing it, the state of 
the ancient Church. Thus, we find it chronicled that many of 
the Icelandic bishops were married, without being told that they 
might have been married before they were ordained. And if 
there is anything in the present day which draws Enghsh Pro- 
testants to Catholicism, it is the fact that honest inquirers find 


they have been brought up in gross ignorance, to say nothing 
more, of the rival creed. 

The Abbe Baudouin is strong in the belief that by virtue of the 
jewel Fair Play he would soon revive Catholicism in one of its 
old seats. And looking at the lukewarm action of the Lutheran 
faith, the scanty hold it has upon the affections and the passions 
of the people, the laical lives of the clergy, the prevalence of the 
" squarson," and the growth of " free thinking," I cannot but 
agree with him. Indeed the revival of Catholicism is one of the 
phenomena of the later nineteenth century, which time only can 
explain. Is it a steady flame or a fitful flicker preceding the 
final darkness ? Its statistics are wonderful. During the last 
eighty-five years in the United States, it has risen from 25,000 
to 9,600,000, a proportion of 1 : 4 of the population ; whilst 
the faith of the nineteenth century, spiritualism (E. D. Owen), 
numbers only 7,500,000. In Holland, the very cradle of the 
Eeformation, Catholics and Protestants are now about equal ; 
and, whilst the census of Victoria gives 121 religions to less 
than three-quarters of a million, Catholicism in England seems 
bent upon forcing men into the extremes so distasteful to the 
English mind, upon dividing the country into two great camps, 
Catholicism and its complement Methodism. In Iceland the 
result of free propagandism would probably result in making 
all the people Catholics or Rationalists. 

It was generally regretted that Dr Hjaltalln the Archiater, 
who was preparing for a trip in the " Diana " to Europe, did 
not take part in the festivities. I need say nothing about the 
scientific acquirements of this well-informed and most obliging 
Icelander, whose writings are known throughout Europe. He 
has travelled extensively in his own country; and I was the 
greatest loser by his departure, as otherwise he might have led 
me to the unexplored regions in the south-east. He was espe- 
cially interested about coal, a subject which seems now to be 
undergoing revival in the north : a fresh impetus has been given 
to its exploration in Norway and Sweden : even in the Eseroe 
Islands a Danish company proposes to exploit the beds. An 
expedition, accompanied by Professor Jonstriip and a Silesian 
engineer, lately returned to Copenhagen, and revived the views 


of Professor Krazenstein, who in 1778 examined the Proste- 
fjeldt in the island of Suderoe. The report is that the people 
have used their coal as fuel for a century ; that although not so 
easily fired as the English, it gives a stronger and more lasting 
flame, and that it is free from sulphur and other minerals in- 
jurious to the fabrication of steel and iron. But, after settling its 
calorific properties, the grand question is, whether the veins are 
in the real carboniferous formation, whose beds are thick enough 
to work profitably. Seams which occur in the nummulite-hippur- 
ite Jurassic formation mostly lead to loss, witness those which 
have been worked near Trieste, on the Adriatic coast, and in 
parts of the Libanus. 

Dr Hjaltalln was sanguine concerning the coal lately found 
in the regions about NorSra, a northern influent of the Western 
Hvlta Eiver: the exact position is between the little tarns 
Vikrafell and HerSavatn in NorSrardal. He expects soon to 
settle a long -disputed question, "Has coal been produced in 
situV and the sister formation of the Fseroe Islands, where a 
Danish officer. Captain Dahl, has bought a vein seven feet thick 
for $50,000, ought to aid in solving the mystery. It is found 
associated with the Surtar-brand,^ a semi-mineralised lignite, 
common on the western coast of the island. Uno Von Troil 
tells us that cups and plates which take a fine polish are made 
of it at Copenhagen : this reminds us of the bitumen " finjans " 
from the Tomb of Moses, near the Dead Sea. 

Uno Yon Troil, Sartorius Von Waltershausen, and Professor 
Silliman maintain this Devil's or black fuel to be a local pro- 
duce of forests buried by ashes, and ripened by the superin- 
cumbent sand and humus. On the other hand, Professor 
Steenstriip and M. Gaimard declare this " brow^n coal " to be flot- 
sam and jetsam from the Gulf of Mexico. Professor Paijkull 
found in it some thirty kinds of growth : the vine and platanus, 
the tulip-tree and mahogany, associated with oak, elm, willow, 
alder, birch, walnut, fir, and other resinous vegetation. These 
items, if grown in situ, as they appear to be, suggest a change 
of temperature utterly unknown to historic times, and belong- 

The name has been discussed in the Introduction (Section VII.). 


ing to the flora of the upper Miocene, e.g., Madeira. Halley 
explained the intense cold of Behring's Straits, by placing the 
Pole there before the earth's axis had altered its direction. 
Others have attributed the change to the diminution of eclipti- 
cal obliquity, the excentricity of the earth's orbit, the precession 
of the equinoxes, and the revolution of the apsides. Similarly 
the Markgraf F. Marenzi (Fragmente liber Geologie) cuts the 
Gordian knot, by supposing an altered obliquity of the ecliptic, 
which may have acted, he says, in past ages even as the 
present ever-increasing excentricity of the orbit will in some 
210,000 years produce another Glacial Period, and render 
Northern Europe uninhabitable. On the other hand, he remarks 
that however torrid may have been the hyperborean climates, 
they must ever have lacked the fructifying insects, peculiar to 
temperate, sub-equatorial, and equatorial zones. Judging from 
Miocene Greenland, the reverse would appear to be fact. 

It is impossible to stay a week in Eeykjavik without finding 
out that the world is split into two divisions, strongly marked as 
were our Whig and Tory of the last generation. The Danes 
are in the minority : they represent the utilitarian, the cosmo- 
politan, and, perhaps, the metropolitan side of politics ; and they 
complain that whatever the mother country does for her distant 
dependency, the latter is ever clamorous for more. The majority 
is the Icelandic party, for whose political aspirations I can find 
no better name than " Home Rulers," — warning readers, how- 
ever, that the comparison must not be strained and identified 
with that of Ireland. The main difference of the movement, as 
far as I can see, appears simply this. Iceland is actually 1600 
miles distant from Denmark, as far as London from Jamaica, and 
practically, when the post goes only seven times a year, as far 
as Australia from England. Again, the proportions of Iceland 
to Denmark (1,800,000) are 1 : 35, and the population is 
1 : 25'70. England certainly would not refuse Home Rule to 
the Irish if they lived in New Zealand and numbered about 
750,000. No wonder then that Iceland objects to be treated 
like a " Crown colony of a rather severe type." 

The islanders show a growing dissatisfaction with the Danish 
Government, which they declare to be, though mild, meddling 


and unintelligent — in fact, perpetuating the petty, "nagging," 
and annoying policy which lost the duchies. They might respect 
whilst they hated a strong despotism ; but perpetual interference 
they despise as well as hate. They are urgent as Mr Butt, for 
leave to stand on their own legs, to manage their own afiPairs ; 
the Danes have tried, they say, for centuries to govern them, and 
progress could hardly be less were they left to themselves. The 
worst that could happen to them would be to starve, in which 
case they would deserve their fate, and could blame none but 
themselves. They complain, and I think with justice, that 
individually the Dane is not sympathetic to them ; whilst Ice- 
landers learn Danish, which, however, they pronounce with their 
own accent, Danes disdain their language and will not even 
attend their church. Eesidents of twenty years declare that 
they never read the theogenic, cosmogenic, and mythic Eddas,^ 
because they are literally "grandams' tales;" whilst the Sagas 
or Sayings, moral and dogmatic, epic and historical, are a tissue 
of inventions, monotonous, moreover, sanguinary, immoral, and 
barbarous. The actual leader of the opposition, or Home Rule 
party, is Hr Jon SigurSsson (nat. 1811), now in Denmark, a far- 
famed JS^orsk scholar, and an employ^ of the Danish Govern- 
ment. "White John," as the popular nickname is, shows his 
clean shaven face everywhere, photographed for the patriot 
party. He owns advanced opinions, but he rests within consti- 
tutional limits ; his followers, of course, go further afield, and not 
a few of them may be called republican. He has the honour 
to appear in the Millenary lithograph with the following notice : 
" President of the Althing, President of the Icelandic Literary 
Society, President of the Icelandic ThjoSvinafelag ; has distin- 
guished himself as an uninterested and faithful champion of 
the national and political rights of the Icelanders; besides he 
has made himself conspicuous as a thorough scholar in the his- 
tory and legislation of Iceland." 

There is also a small and uninfluential IN'orwegian faction which 
seems bent upon drawing the islanders to itself, chiefly, it appears 

1 MoSir is mother ; Amma (evidently a Sanskritic form), grandmotlier ; and 
£dda is Proa via, or great-grandmother. Of course the derivation is disputed. 


to me, because Naddodd and Ingolfr discovered and colonised 
Iceland, and because she still speaks the Norraena-Tunga : a 
few distinguished names, literary and political, belong to this 
political category. 

In the Introduction I have offered a few remarks on the pros 
and cons of Home Eule in Iceland. But the history of the 
world generally, and especially that of Italy, teaches one great 
lesson — how easy it is to divide and how hard to " unify " a 
country. The line between local and imperial measures is diffi- 
cult to draw and facile to be overstepped at all times of popular 
excitement: a manner of dismemberment is proposed at the time 
when the condition of Europe seems to demand centralisation. 
Diets in Great Britain will only assimilate her with Austria, 
which exists by a political necessity : statesmen say that if she 
were not she would have to be invented. We can all distins^uish 
the dim form which stands behind Home Eule in Ireland, and 
I venture to predict that in Iceland it will be the shortest path 
to separation from the mother state, and to the re-establishment 
of the old Norwegian Eepublic. 


M^Farlane & Erskine, Printers, Edinburgh. ^ 




2 6*?